Negotiation is today a common means of resolving family, work and societal disputes. People with different backgrounds, status and personalities negotiate all the time. They negotiate with the members of their families, with their friends, with their co-workers or company's managers, while shopping or while asking for different products or services etc. They negotiate one single issue or several issues, depending on their interests, and they hope to reach a final agreement every time. Family negotiation is one of the most common negotiations. This kind of negotiation takes place almost every day, without the parties even realizing that they are actually negotiating. Most of them perceive the negotiation more as a family discussion or dispute. Negotiations are done between two or more than two parties (group negotiations). For example, we can refer to a negotiation between family members: husband and wife, father and daughter, mother and son or parents and children, and, on the other hand, we can refer to negotiations between close or not so close relatives. This paper is going to present and analyze a family negotiation. Although they are trying to decide about the buying of one object, there are multiple issues to be discussed. The type of negotiation conducted is integrative. The originality of this paper stands in the final settlement which meets the parties' interests taking into consideration their needs and also status.
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Key concepts: family negotiation, integrative bargaining, MESO
A typical strength of family negotiations is that family members are willing to accommodate each other on the road to reaching an agreement. This constructive attitude is due in no small part to the strength of family ties. Typically, family members are genuinely interested in one another's welfare and prefer to avoid conflict because of its effect on future interactions. Most family members are generally well intentioned when they negotiate, and one would think that such an orientation would make it easy for family members to listen to each other's perspective and to learn about each other's interests and constraints very fast therefor to shorten the time needed for a settlement.
Helen is the mother of two children, Christine and Robert. Despite being their single parent she always succeeded to manage the house and to take care of her children in an exemplary way. After analyzing her family necessities she realized that a car would be very useful for her and her dear children. The budget is 25 000 euro.
Helen thinks that a family car would suit perfectly in their situation and they can use it for traveling, shopping and in any other urgent situation. Helen uses a work car, but she observed that her manager is not that willing to give her that car and she doesn't want to depend on that anymore. Also, if she wouldn't use the car, her manager said she would be entitled to a higher salary which she intends to request after buying one. Also, the car she got from the work place can be used only from Monday to Friday. Helen has some health problems; she is regularly complaining of very bad back pains. That is why she needs her own car to use it for shopping at the supermarket also during the weekends. Helen has consulted with several of her friends and came to the conclusion that buying only one, good and safe car for the entire family is the best option.
Robert is the son of Helen and brother of Christine. Robert has thought about what the family needs. He observed that since his mother is working and Christine is a student they need two cars: one for himself and the other for his mother and sister. He thinks that the family needs more than one car to use it for transportation inside the city and also for any other kind of situations. Robert knows that his mother Helen actually has the work car, but her manager is not willing to let her use the car anymore, and Robert doesn't feel good about his mother's situation. A better choice can be to buy a car for Helen and the company will pay her fuel money. Robert wants two cars: one new and the other one can be second hand. The new one might be Chevrolet Captiva which is a fine jeep. With the rest of the money a small city car can be bought, for example a Renault Clio. Both cars should be diesel because they consume less and cost less than fuel. He also thinks that Christine doesn't need a car. She wants a car just because her friends at the university have one. He thinks that she can share it with her mother, while he needs a car to make a better impression when he goes to business meetings and to travel easier in city.
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Christine, as her mother and brother figure, wants a car for herself. This idea came to her mind when some friends at the university got their own car when turning 18 and now she doesn't want to let it go. More than this she wants her car to be better-looking than some girl's Jenna from her group. She insists on getting her own car although she knows her family would never approve. Because of this, she would be willing to settle for having the car to go to school as often as possible and also for going out in the evenings and on weekends.
Helen cares very much about her children, maybe too much. Buying a second car only for them would be the last alternative because she is really afraid of car accidents. She found out recently that one of her friends almost lost her child in a car accident and since then she became more frightened although both her children have driving licenses and their instructor told her they are excellent drivers.
Robert's last resort is to take up a loan and buy a car himself and then pay monthly rates to cover his credit. That is in case he doesn't get the car when he needs it and this can easily happen since he doesn't have a fixed schedule at work and meetings outside the office arise without notice all the time. In this situation he won't be able to buy the car he wants because he is still on entry level and although he is bright and manages his tasks very well he doesn't have a high enough salary to permit him taking up a big credit from the bank. Also this is not a great outcome for he will be obliged to pay also the interest rate to the bank which can rise up to 50% of the sum borrowed.
Christine's alternative, if she doesn't get a good resolution, is to ask her mother to buy 3 cheap or second hand cars. As she figures: not such a great car beats having no car at all.
Helen always takes into consideration her children's opinions and wants to see if they agree with her decisions. She heard them saying they want a car only for themselves or one for each of them and she wants to explain to them very well all the issues related to buying a car for their family. Also she wants to see what their expectations are because they have always acted like a real family and always came to a common agreement. None of the children want to upset their mother either. They know and appreciate her struggle to raise them well and after all she is the one paying. More than that, they trust her opinion. However they want to be sure that she understands their needs and wants before making a decision.
Helen believes in the general known fact that it is better to buy only one good, new and safe car for rather than spending the money on second hand cars that will break down easily and will definitely not be as safe as the first option. Robert knows that in his line of work reputation scores big points and a good car would help him in this area. In Christine's university 50% of the students have cars and a sports car add big points to popularity.
2. WHAT HAPPENS BEFORE THE NEGOTIATION
2.1. Ground rules
In this negotiation each party will speak for itself. The negotiation will take place in their dining room starting with 8 'clock in the evening and hopefully won't last more than one hour. All three parties involved will sit around the table at equal distances while negotiating. The mother will open the discussion, state her opinion, then let the older brother speak his mind and then Christine. They will state all their interests, needs and positions from the beginning. A verbal final agreement is sufficient to settle.
2.2. Positions of HELEN
Get a safe, new car for the entire family
Use it for going to work, travelling, shopping etc.
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Big car with a large trunk
Diesel car for cost reducing
The money should be enough for insurance
Have the car for permanent use
A car that doesn't affect very much the environment
All services included
2.3. Positions of ROBERT
Get a car just for me
Low fuel consumption
Known brand to emphasize on professionalism
Low service cost
Low insurance cost
2.4. Positions of CHRISTINE
Get a car
Have it for going to university and for going out in the evenings and on weekends
Preferment audio system
A sports car
Well experienced negotiators get past stated positions (what the party demands) and understand the underlying interests (why the party wants what it demands). Often, disputes over positions will be irreconcilable, whereas a focus on interests will lead to a mutually acceptable agreement. Some families are encouraging family members to dream and explore their authentic interests and to express these interests within the family. These families have cultures where family members can talk openly about their goals, needs, and fears.
WHAT HAPPENS AT THE NEGOTIATION
Helen: Hello dear! I'm glad you found the time to sit and talk to me. You know it is very important for me that we decide together upon issues concerning the entire family and this one is a very important one, in my opinion. You know we have a sum of money I tried to safe in the last years. It got to 25 000 euro recently. I want to invest it in buying a car. I want a family car for all of us. For example VW Tuareg would be perfect, but I also want to hear what you think. So, now please tell me your opinions and I would be very happy if you have suggestions, too.
Robert: Mom, this is what I want [aici intervine ROBERT]
Helen: Ok, I will give some feedback , but first let's listen to your sister. I want to know what she wants also.
Christine: Well I want what every student wants . ……[CHRISTINE]
Helen: I understand your need very much, Robert. And yours, too, Christine, even if it sounded to me a little bit childish. I know that the perfect situation would be the possibility of buying a car for each of us. But, as I told you, I have the money only for one single car. I really need it in order to go to work and for shopping. You know very well about my health problems and I don't want to depend anymore on the car given by my boss. You know I do all these for you, because you are everything I have.
Christine: But, mom! What will my colleagues think about me? They all have fancy, sport cars. I'm the single student in my group that comes to faculty by foot. I'm so embarrassed!
Helen: Christine, I have told you several times that you have the capability to obtain everything you want, but in time and with your own strengths. You are a smart kid and I'm sure that you are able to realize that the car you want isn't a necessity.
Christine: Ok, mom!........
On the other hand, I think that Robert needs this car almost as much as I do. But what can we do? We have the money for only one car.
WHAT HAPPENS AFTER THE NEGOTIATION
Every person goes into her room thinking about the outcome of this negotiation. They each imagine themselves in their brand new car. Robert is satisfied with the result. He will have its own car which was essential and he also gets to choose it as long as he sticks to the budget, of course. He will find a car belonging to a well-renowned brand with a good ratio between engine size and gas consumption. He will have it at his disposal whenever necessary for urgent meetings or for simply going to work and coming back home.
Helen is satisfied with the outcome as well. She knows she did the right thing and made the correct decision. She is very happy that she will soon buy a car even if it isn't the one she wanted at the beginning. She loves and appreciates her son a great deal. She is proud that he got a good job after graduation and she is happy to give him the money to buy his own car. She also appreciates the fact that he isn't looking for a sports car like his sister, but a serious car to help him get a successful image among his partners.
Christine isn't very happy with the result of their little chat but she isn't surprised either. She figured that she won't be receiving a car of her own. Like any other teenager she will look with a little bit of envy at her more popular friends at school who have fancy, sport cars, but she knows she will get over it. Her mother must be right: there are things of much more importance in life than this one. Her idea is to get good grades and after that a job just like her brother's or better. First, she thought of arguing with her mother separately after the negotiation maybe the next day to get another result, but then she reconsidered. She remembered everything her mother does for them and figured to argue a decision already made is not appropriate.
WHAT WENT WELL/WRONG. ANALYSIS OF THE NEGOTIATION
It was very good that the parties established a familiar place to meet and that they were all present in time for the discussion. Also the negotiation was very polite without the emotional outbursts specific to family discussions. This was perhaps because this is not a typical family. The father is missing and maybe they went through hard times together and learned in time to respect one another and especially the kids to respect their mother. She was also the one to talk first since she organized the meeting. She told the children everything that was on her mind without hiding anything from them. Afterwards she took care that each of them speaks his mind, listened the carefully and them took a decision.
What was not so good about this negotiation was that the mother didn't prepare in advance, meaning she hadn't much knowledge about car brands, car technicalities and so on. She only had some general ideas she heard from different sources. In the technical area maybe it would have been better to take some advice from her boy or ask him to prepare in advance with this and teach her what she needs to know to take a good decision.
If there is a person leading the negotiation and who has the authority and status that puts him/her in the position of taking the last decision, that person should get very well informed about the topic being discussed. It is a good idea to get the other parties involved in this, each coming with the things or areas he knows best because of his previous training or simply because he has a hobby for that.