9. How do you assess the “Social Context” when strategically planning a negotiation?
A negotiator must understand the social context of the negotiation. Negotiation occurs in a context of rules, such as customs, habits, situations, cultural norms, religious doctrine, laws, and political pressures. Understanding the social constraints on the negotiation, particularly social pressures, is extremely important. The negotiation becomes far more complex when there are multiple parties in the negotiation. Team negotiations involve multiple individuals representing each negotiating party. Multiple parties often lead to the formation of factions and coalitions. Negotiators may also have constituents whom they serve in the negotiation. Multiparty or team negotiations is discussed in detail in Ch. 10. The following sample questions may be useful in understanding the social context:
• Are there team dynamics at stake on either side of the negotiation?
• Are there any third parties of interest, such as constituents represented in the negotiation?
• Will anyone else be affected by the negotiation outcome?
• Is there a prior relationship between the parties?
• Will the relationship be affected by the outcome of the negotiation?
• What social norms, customs, or rituals apply to the negotiation?
• Are there legal or political pressures at stake?
• Discussion: Do you agree that the social context of a negotiation is important to understand? Can you give an example of how social context can affect a negotiation? Which aspect included in social context do you find most important?