What Recent Climate Talks Can Teach Us About Business Communication and Negotiation

Two businessmen negotiating in a boardroom

Negotiating is complex because it often mixes human behavior, psychology, science and process to make deals, solve problems, manage conflict, build and preserve relationships and more. Depending on what the issues are and what goals are at stake, effective negotiating can be difficult to achieve.

A highly effective technique called indaba, originating from the Zulu and Xhosa people of South Africa, simplifies and streamlines discussions and helps negotiating parties when they’re at a crossroads. With indaba, all parties get to voice their opinion, but there are certain rules that expedite the negotiation process. Each party personally states its limits or what thresholds it is not willing to cross as well as possible solutions that would potentially satisfy all parties. Clean and simple, indaba bridges differences by offering a participatory and fair forum.

Indaba was used recently at the climate-change summit in Paris. According to an article in Quarts, when negotiations started falling apart, indabas were held in private rooms throughout the day and night. The process was highly successful, and, for the first time, all 195 countries adopted an agreement with no objections. The first time indabas were used during climate negotiations was in 2011. Toward the end of the meeting, talks were collapsing. Representatives from the main countries were asked by South African leaders to stand in a circle and speak directly to each other. It left an impression on all who witnessed it and is being used more often when there are multiple sides to an issue.

In life, negotiating presents itself in many different situations. From something trivial like what movie to see with your spouse to a more significant decision about what to name your child, negotiation helps you achieve your goals while also satisfying the other party. In a business environment, negotiating is also quite prevalent. You negotiate to secure a fair salary at a new job, and you negotiate to manage relationships that support your success and effectiveness on the job. Negotiations occur daily, making the ability to negotiate important and invaluable in business and in life.

Aaron Shepherd shares his five tips for negotiation in a recent LifeHacker article.

  1. Listen: When you listen, you build trust and show respect – two vital components of successful business communication and negotiation.
  2. Seek a Win-Win Outcome: When negotiating a deal, seek an outcome that satisfied all parties.
  3. Look for Commonalities: When you show the other party that you share things in common, it’s more difficult for the other party to become confrontational during negotiations.
  4. Acknowledge Objections: Ask for what you want and repeat the objection to your ask in order to keep lines of communication open for tip #5…
  5. Broaden the Pie: When it comes to asking for a raise, it’s important to practice tip #4 so you can offer an alternative ask. For example, if your supervisor says he can’t give you a raise at the moment, ask if you can work together to get a raise approved in the near future – potentially by taking on additional responsibilities.

What tips do you have for effective business communication and negotiation? Share with us below.