Intro to Negotiation
Negotiation is the fundamental skill that is critical to MUN and the mechanism through which you will be developing your final product of a draft resolution. Writing, speaking, and research are all skills that are required to facilitate your negotiations, but at the end of the day they all factor into practicable things that fall under preparation for the main event: negotiating.
FOUNDATIONS OF GOOD NEGOTIATING
Good negotiating requires some preparation and, to a certain extent, also an understanding of human psychology. These can all be broken down into wider categories of communication, inclusivity, ownership of ideas, research, and understanding what is at stake.
NOTE: NEGOTIATING IN CRISIS VS GA
It should be noted that everything in this module is widely applicable, but especially helpful for delegates that will be in traditional or hybrid committees. Crisis delegates can also pick up valuable information from this training module. However, for further specifics on how negotiations work in smaller sized committees, you should check out the Crisis Training Module.
Negotiations in Practice
At the end of the day, all of the theory and preparation in the world need to combine to produce a successful negotiation for you in practice. The beginning to this is accurately evaluating what your counterpart wants from the negotiation and understanding your own goals beforehand. By assessing your objectives ahead of time, you are preparing yourself with a clear metric of what you will be able to consider a success in your upcoming negotiation.
The second kind of assessment that you can make, based on your understanding of both your and the goals of your counterpart, is whether the terms of this negotiation will be built on a level playing field or not. Sometimes the balance can be shifted because one party has more leverage than the other. You should attempt to gauge this beforehand so you can begin to understand your strengths or limitations when advocating for yourself or your ideas. You don’t want your ideas to be absorbed and you want to reduce the extent to which they may be watered down or altered.
Another key piece of advice is to read the room. While the first two kinds of analysis you may be doing are closer to understanding the tangibles of the situation and their potential, this one is related more to the intangible aspect of negotiation. Take a moment to judge the situation at hand in terms of the tone and body language of the people you are working with. This may be helpful in figuring out what could and could not be possible in this negotiation. If tensions are high, it’ll be more challenging to try to negotiate something if the person or group is opposed to it.
How This Applies to MUN
Negotiations in MUN often happen during unmoderated caucuses or even outside of committee. They can be one-on-one or in group settings. You will likely need to negotiate and advocate for your ideas not only in your own bloc, but also between blocs in the merging process on Friday and Saturday. This can be quite challenging, especially in larger committees, unless you prepare yourself before you go into these kinds of interactions.
What To Do If It Doesn’t Seem To Be Working Out
If you’ve hit a bit of a rut in your negotiating or are not accomplishing what you wanted to do, you should always remember that you have plenty of other options. If you don’t like working with someone or feel as if they are valuing your input and ideas, you don’t have to keep working with them! Keep note of whether or not they seem to want to be an inclusive leader, and if not, you can go find another group to work with or make a group of your own. The best thing to do is to simply find people that you would get along with in real life, outside of the committee room. It’s much easier to work with people that aren’t being difficult. You shouldn’t feel like you are locked in a bloc on day one. If it’s not working out, you should feel completely free to figure out a different course of action that may be better for you.
What's at Stake
Negotiations are not necessarily a zero sum game. In other words, it is often possible for all negotiating parties to get a favorable outcome. This should be the goal of any successful negotiation as it strengthens your ideas and theirs. In order to understand how to get to this place, a closer look at the tangibles and intangibles of negotiation is needed.
Tangibles in a negotiation can be classified as any measurable aspect or outcome of a negotiation. For example, in a peace deal, this could be the specific demands of either party. The inclusion of your ideas in the final document that you produce is a tangible measure of the negotiation. They are your goals or gains from the negotiation.
Intangibles are everything else in the negotiation and can encompass anything like emotional investment and interpersonal relationships. People tend to be very attached to their ideas. Oftentimes we interpret harsh criticism of our ideas as a personal insult. It is important to distinguish between disagreeing with someone’s solutions and finding the person themselves disagreeable.
Why is this important? Well, both in MUN and in other everyday negotiations (at school, at home, at work) we have to work with the same set of people over and over again. Making sure that you establish a good working relationship with the people you regularly negotiate with will make the process much easier. Understanding the tangibles and intangibles of a situation is the key to a negotiation that will both be beneficial to you and will leave the other party feeling validated as well.
Good communication skills are the first step in any negotiation. At the very basic level, a good communicator will be able to signal to whoever they are speaking with that they are listening and engaged. This includes everything from visual cues such as eye contact and body language to demonstrating that you are understanding what they are saying by being able to build on their ideas or responding to them. In order to build a good foundation for later negotiation, you should make sure that the person or people you are working with feel as if they are being listened to and that you are responsive to what they have to say. After all, no one wants to work with someone who is dismissive and doesn’t appear to be listening. Other visual cues, such as nodding to show that you understand or asking questions help people feel understood in any exchange are the most basic way to demonstrate engagement with others, building a good foundation for negotiation.
Additionally, a good communicator will be able to succinctly summarize their viewpoint, as well as why they believe in it or why it is a good idea. You should be prepared to summarize your viewpoint in a couple of sentences. The simpler you explain it, the better. A great way to visualize communication in negotiation is through the framework of what-how-why. British author Simon Sinek gave a wonderful example of the way communication changes our negotiation abilities in a Ted Talk video. Most people know what they are doing, some know how they are doing it or plan to achieve it, and only a few actually know why they are doing it. Effective communication should work the other way around, starting with a strong understanding of why you plan to do what you do, moving on to how you plan to do it, and then, finally, what you intend on doing.
The basic principles from the video above can be applied to the Model UN context as well. In this case, your “product” is your researched solution mechanism or your clauses. In order to be successful at advocating for your ideas, you should identify why they are important or best possible solution to the problem. Starting from there will help you become more convincing when communicating your ideas to others.
Additional Elements of Good Communication
You’ve probably heard the saying that knowledge equals power hundreds of times in your life. This is also true for negotiation. Good negotiators come prepared to do what they need to do. Having thoroughly researched your topic and your solutions, you will feel more confident, comfortable, and better prepared when negotiating or debating with others. It is always better to enter negotiations prepared with background knowledge because it gives you an advantage over others who may not be as well prepared. Think about it this way; you are much less likely to challenge somebody on the efficacy of a specific solution if you have not looked into how that policy has worked in practice. For more tips on research and preparedness, take a look at the Research Training Module.
Conference is a large, intricate operation that takes nearly a year to plan, and with roles available on the committee and business sides. Take a look at the Roles You Can Fill as a First Year section for more info!
Additionally, because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, MUNUC will be hosting an online version of our conference from Thursday February 4th through Sunday, February 7th. Participation in MUNUC Online is not required, but certainly encouraged; all participants will be invited to an exclusive banquet that Sunday evening and will receive a special gift!
Each conference is a large, intricate operation that takes nearly a year to plan, and with roles available on the committee and business sides. Take a look at the Roles You Can Fill as a First-Year section for more info!
Ownership of Ideas
Another critical tool that will help you have smoother negotiations is maintaining ownership of your ideas. In this context, it simply means associating your ideas with you. This is especially important if you are in a larger size committee, as many ideas that are floated around in debate can get lost. An easy way to keep track of ideas and to organize them is to name your plans. If you have a specific mechanism, committee, panel, research center, or other thing that you are proposing in your clauses, give it a catchy, but relevant acronym. It’s easier, both when negotiating and in speeches, to refer to your plan by its acronym (e.g. “STAR” or “ACT”) and build off of that than it would be for you to have to explain your idea every time you mention it. If you do need to explain it, make sure you can do it succinctly and briefly so that the people you are working with can begin to associate your plan with that particular acronym. You can take the time to explain it in more depth in your speeches or during longer unmods when you have time, but for the most part, your focus should be on effectively communicating the central points in your idea and establishing your ownership of the ideas you propose.
Negotiation is also oftentimes about inclusive leadership. An effective leader will be trying to listen to all of the ideas that are brought up in committee, not just the loudest voices or the most popular ideas. A lot of people tend to think that negotiation is a competition. This is a misconception. Good negotiators think of negotiation as collaboration. The key is working to find a solution that is beneficial both to you and the people that you are working with. Unmoderated caucuses in Model Un committees can sometimes be absolute anarchy. It is important that you not only find your own voice, but that you also spend time listening to others. Take special notice if you see someone getting interrupted time and time again, go out of your way to uplift their voice and recognize them for their ideas. Again, nobody wants to work with someone who will constantly be speaking over them and everyone will feel more appreciated if you put in the effort to ensure that their ideas are also being heard. Think about the characteristics that you believe a good leader should have and try to emulate them in a genuine way.
Think about the characteristics of a person that you would like to work and negotiate with and try to emulate them. Remember that at the end of the day, Model UN is a largely arbitrary activity that is meant to help you practice your skills, further your interests in international diplomacy, and help prepare you to face similar scenarios in the real world. Even though it is valuable, the interpersonal relationships that you form with your peers are far more important than whether or not your clause about a 0.05% GDP tax clause makes it into the final resolution. You are negotiating with human beings, not ideas or pieces of paper. The critical takeaway should be lessons you learn from them.