Managing Multiparty Negotiations


Multiparty negotiations will most likely be some of the most difficult negotiations you’ll face in your career. Managing expectations of multiple parties can be overwhelming. Finding a solution that makes everyone—or most everyone—happy is even harder.

In a recent episode of the Negotiations Ninja podcast, Mihai Isman shared how he manages multiparty negotiations. If you keep these things in mind before you even begin the process, the chances of success rise exponentially.

What is often forgotten in multiparty negotiations?

Mihai points out that most negotiators forget that each party is an agent for his or her group. Everyone is used to one-on-one negotiation. It’s fairly simple and isn’t often complex. But the success of the external negotiation depends on the internal negotiation of a group you can’t influence.

How well are the representatives prepared? Are they aligned with their group? He notes that it’s always underestimated by negotiators. They represent a group of members, and then the other person may represent another body, and there’s no way to know how well each group is prepared. They might not have enough input on the needs and wants of the rest of their party. That’s why preparation is key.

Start with mediation before negotiation

Before you get into the nitty-gritty of the multiparty negotiation, there are a few things Mihai suggests doing. One of the first includes meeting with each party involved one-on-one to discuss their position. It’s also a great way to gauge their relationship with the other parties and whether anyone is an antagonist.

Mihai points out that even if the parties are lying to you, it shows you how they will approach the negotiating table. It gives you key insights into each party that allows you to build a stakeholder map and an approach to take.

Be optimistic—but not too optimistic

You have to understand what could go wrong before you go into any negotiation. Most people tend to be overly optimistic. But there’s a difference between optimism and over-optimism because that can come with bias.

Normally, you’d search for self-fulfilling answers that answer your hypotheses. But you must be prepared to fail every step of the process. The more parties there are at the table, the higher the chance of failure. That’s where the pre-mortem process comes into play and impacts how you move forward.

Conduct a pre-mortem analysis

Mihai shares that “It doesn’t serve you to be naive or think that you alone will rescue a negotiation.” The people in a multiparty negotiation may have dealt with each other for years. They’re a large dysfunctional family. You won’t understand the dynamics like they will.

The pre-mortem helps you refocus your thoughts. If you know what could go wrong, it helps you better prepare for it. It helps you stay aware of what to avoid as well. Going through all the what-if scenarios prior to each meeting is critical to success.

How to work through language differences

You must also understand intercultural aspects. Mihai shared an example where he worked with 23 different people who spoke French, English, and German. They were all from different cultures and backgrounds. Mihai remembers that they had to negotiate in English because it was the common language among everyone involved. But there are situations where no one has English as the mother language.

Mihai had done a negotiation in Madrid where speaking English was not an option. The Spanish could speak French, so they decided to negotiate in French. But it turned out that no one from France understood the French being spoken, so they had to bring in translators. Involving translators messes up the process because no one is having a conversation anymore. Things get lost in translation, so whenever possible, find a common language that everyone can use.

To learn more about the dynamics of multiparty negotiation, listen to episode #199 of the Negotiations Ninja podcast. Mihai shares his process, how his team approaches the negotiation table, and what outcomes you should strive for. Don’t miss it!

Text me at 587-315-5948 for negotiation advice.