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Negotiation skills often assist editors in delicate situations. This can only be achieved if the editors involved have a common interest and sincerity of commitment for improving the quality of the article.
Negotiation is a cooperative process whereby participants try to find a solution which meets the legitimate interests of both parties. Negotiation could be metaphorically represented as slices of pizza, there would be some slices where involved parties can share and the distribution is in consensus. But when it comes to the remaining last slices, everyone involved would have certain urges/needs on how those slices required to be shared and they wouldn't fail themselves to assert below from this position. Negotiation is breaking the slices evenly for everyone involved without partiality even if it at moments this can bring up dissatisfaction. In the context of Wikipedia if this is not handled with justice and within policy and guidelines, it could lead to disruptive editing, personal attacks and other sorts of problems.
The basics of negotiation are:
- Purpose: Without aim, negotiation will lead to wastage of resource, money and time.
- Plan: It is necessary to make a plan before going for actual negotiation; Without planning, negotiation will fail.
- Pace: Negotiator try to achieve agreements on points of the negotiations before their concentration reduces.
- Personalities: Two interested people sit together to arrive at an agreement.
- Strategic negotiation
Random House Dictionary defines strategy as “a plan, method, or series of maneuvers for obtaining a specific goal or result”
A strategic negotiation involves:
- Setting goals, objectives and boundaries.
- Understanding the declared incentives within the goals in context of Wikipedia.
- Rationalizing the range of mutual agreement without loosing cool and maintaining mutual respect.
- Formulating solutions with fair consensus.
- Implementing the solution.
Using tit for tat strategy for boldly preventing gaming behaviors and rewarding for cooperative behaviors will create validation, trust and better reciprocity which will enforce the success of the negotiation. Gaming behaviors include and is not limited to providing ambiguous statement of goals that can drag the process, directly or indirectly blocking the involved parties in the process, intimidation by power or destabilising the neutral party with its possible retaliative implications, etc.
In the 1970s a negotiation tactic for keeping cool included bringing a small farm animal such as a pig to a meeting. This was done to divert attention from the actual meeting thus allowing the negotiator to take the upper hand in the conversation.
Being cooperative is an important value to Wikipedia. This value can be translated in negotiations through "Splitting the difference" compromise, while often well-intended, this can lead to failure of finding new solutions or the process can become regressive. (See our article on argument to moderation, though philosophers more often call it the "middle ground fallacy".) This should not stop participants from finding compromises when demanded that provides a balanced presentation which adheres to Wikipedia's principles. Compromising in the context of editing can mean a few different things and time is a constraint in any negotiation process.
One of the most serious problems with compromise is that it motivates each party to stake out their most extreme position. In the context of Wikipedia, compromise is inappropriate, especially if it means departure from a neutral and appropriately balanced point of view. For some amusing examples of the negative impact of this approach, see here. Compromising or reaching a status quo can make some editors feel the process as a lose-lose situation, but don't panic and don't change tactics for a stalemate outcome. Often agreeability is important in negotiations and for attaining it a little bit of imperfection is good.
- Article topic compromise
If the dispute is over a specific controversial issue which is a topic of the entry, compromise often means inclusion of some of the material which each side has proposed. Doing so will mean that both sides of a debate or issue will receive some coverage. This will ultimately make an entry more balanced and comprehensive provided the result adheres to Wikipedia's content policies such as verifiability and giving appropriate weight to majority and minority views.
- Article format and editing compromise
If the dispute is over a specific point of editing the entry itself; in other words, the controversy is not focused on any issue described by the entry, but rather relates to the form, phrasing, structure or any aspect of the editing process itself, then compromise often means finding some editing technique or refactoring which can incorporate both of the proposed styles or techniques. One possible method is to provide a few subsections for the disputed section, in order to incorporate both ideas or proposals.
- Article content compromise
The main objective of this is to adhere the content with Wikipedia's policies. Common methods for achieving this is through ensuring the content is verifiabile and neutral, minimising copyright violations, dissolving content that can burn the process, temporarily moving parts of the content to talk pages for better refactoring, etc. It is essential to keep a healthy attitude and be watchful for not burning trust. Because trust in this process is slow to build and easy to destroy. If a proposed fair solution doesn't reach consensus, approach for a wider input through dispute resolution noticeboard, though it is worth understanding too many cooks spoil the broth.
Work towards objective criteria
Finding objective criteria, to work towards a principled agreement is always a win-win attitude that could be adopted in any negotiations for both maintaining civility and improving social skills in Wikipedia. The goal of Wikipedia, presumably shared by all sides to any dispute, is to produce a useful and reliable reference work. Objective criteria such as accuracy, reliability, and appropriate representation of all significant points of view should be used by participants in dispute for working toward a value based problem solving solution.
- Not understanding the policies and guidelines.
- Engaging with arbitrary interests than with altruistic ones.
- Disregarding civility and burning cordiality.
- Ambiguity in stating objectives.
References and further reading
- Communication Skills, Nagesghwar Rao, Rajendra P. Das (2009) Himalaya Publishing, ISBN 9788183183512, p. 327
- Strategy definition - Dictionary.com
- Peter Nixon, 2012: Negotiation Mastering Business in Asia. Pg. 232. John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 9781118499153.
- Pirie, Madsen, 2006: How to Win Every Argument: The Use and Abuse of Logic. Continuum International Publishing Group. ISBN 9780826490063.
- Negotiating, 2015. Dorling Kindersley Ltd. Pg. 36. ISBN 9780241208397.
- William Ury, Roger Fisher and Bruce Patton, Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving in, Revised 2nd edition, Penguin USA, 1991, trade paperback, ISBN 0140157352; Houghton Mifflin, April, 1992, hardcover, 200 pages, ISBN 0395631246. The first edition, unrevised, Houghton Mifflin, 1981, hardcover, ISBN 0395317576
- William Ury, Getting Past No: Negotiating Your Way from Confrontation to Cooperation, revised second edition, Bantam, January 1, 1993, trade paperback, ISBN 0553371312; 1st edition under the title, Getting Past No: Negotiating with Difficult People, Bantam, September, 1991, hardcover, 161 pages, ISBN 0553072749
- Gerard I. Nierenberg, The Art of Negotiating: Psychological Strategies for Gaining Advantageous Bargains, Barnes and Noble, (1995), hardcover, 195 pages, ISBN 156619816X
- Wikipedia:If it ain't broke, don't fix it
- Wikipedia:Once is enough
- Wikipedia:Good editing practices
- Wikipedia:Keep it down to earth
- Wikipedia:Editor integrity
- Wikipedia:Collaboration first
- Wikipedia:Passive Aggressive
- Wikipedia:Requests for mediation
- Wikipedia:Zeroth law of Wikipedia