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Constituent Relationships in Negotiations

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What is a constituent relationship and how does it affect negotiation?

Constituent, the party whom the principal represents, is ostensibly on the “same side” as a principal, but exerts independent influence on the outcome through the principal. The challenges for constituent relationships include:

  • Identification – Often it is difficult to identify individuals in a constituent group. Constituents may have any number of interests; yet, there is one or more salient interests that align constituents behind the principal.
  • Accountability – In a group negotiation, the relationship that the principal negotiator shares with her constituents requires decision-making vigilance, evaluation apprehension, and face-saving by the principal. The principal must act in a way to unite constituents around her actions and decisions. Diffusion of responsibility is the tendency for each individual to feel less responsible and become less likely to act than if he or she were alone.
  • Conflicts of interest – A principal must avoid conflicts of interest with constituents who have a wide variety of interests. This can be very difficult and, in some cases, impossible given the context of the negotiation.

Tactics for improving constituent relationships include:

  • Communication – Communicate with your constituents.
  • Diverse Views – Do not expect homogeneity of constituent views.
  • Education – Educate your constituents on your role and your limitations.
  • Forward thinking – Help your constituents do horizon thinking, type of thinking that involves making projections about future outcomes.

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