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The psychological game behind a successful negotiations
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The psychological game behind a successful negotiations


We negotiate in every aspect our lives, whether we are conscious of it or not. This includes negotiating with children to eat their vegetables, negotiating a property’s price, and negotiating the terms of a job. Negotiation can be viewed as “back-and-forth communication designed to reach an agreement when you and the other side have some interests that are shared and others that are opposed”.

Even though we negotiate every day it is difficult to do so successfully because the context is always changing: what you stand for or lose, who is involved, and their chosen tactics will all vary from one situation to the next.

Multi-lateral negotiations which involve a large and diverse group of countries – especially those covering such complex issues as COP26 – are particularly challenging. These negotiations are so crucial for the future success of the global community, and it is important to consider psychological factors.

Previously, negotiation research had mainly been about strategies and tacticsLeverage, alternative options, offers, solutions, or simple transactional agreements. Recent research has begun to investigate the complex interplay among psychological factors, including cognitive biases as well as emotions that could affect the individual behavior of negotiators.

One recent studyIt was shown that a cooperative tone of conversation can increase the chances of a favourable deal being struck and improve relationships. You don’t have to choose between your own success and the satisfaction of your opponent. Negotiators can use conversational strategies to achieve both.

Negotiation tactics also require the ability to manage emotions. Anger can often harm negotiationsby increasing conflict, reducing joint gains and decreasing cooperation, and intensifying the competitive interaction. This could be related to the idea of zero-sum biasThis is where some parties view negotiations as purely competitive and not co-operative. This thinking leads to antagonistic negotiations.

Negotiators who are successful recognize the importance of psychological factors and can adapt their strategies to overcome them. It is essential to establish a rapport with other parties and work together to achieve a win-win situation. This is possible through long-term relationships and not just one-off wins. Most negotiations are ongoing relationships.

People sitting round a table talking in office like environment
Successful negotiations require co-operation and building relationships.
Headway / Unsplash

The challenge of COP26 negotiations

There are several obstacles that make international negotiations on climate change extremely challenging – but there are still clear reasons to play the game. Although climate action is a long-term process – and we are unlikely to see improvements for decades – global leaders know that short-term inaction, while easier, may be a very costly gamble.

This is delayed gratification – resisting the temptation of a smaller but more immediate pleasure to obtain a larger, valuable and long-lasting reward later on. A series of classical studiesIt was clear that it is not easy to overcome such resistance. There will always be resistance to climate action due to the uncertainties surrounding the costs and benefits and the immense challenges.

Other issues also influence each nation’s negotiators. While someSome countries are extremely wealthy, while others are very poor. Developing nations may claim that climate change was “caused” by rich developed nations and so the onus is on them to find a solution.

Some countries, particularly small island states, are especially vulnerable to climate change. They can reasonably fear that they will be wiped out by rising oceans within a few decades. Other countries are facing severe and prolonged droughts while tropical areas experience unprecedented rainfalls. While countries that have large reserves of fossil fuels claim the right of use and profit from these resources, others argue for a proportional share of atmospheric greenhouse gas emissions, or simply insist on renewable options.

Multiple asymmetries could lead to very. different points of view on climate change, invoking different ideas of what is “fair”. This can lead to each nation seeking to advance its own interests, making it difficult to reach an agreement.

However, psychology can be a powerful tool for leaders to create an effective plan that will ensure the survival of our planet. To facilitate negotiations, negotiators from each country must understand the stakes for their counterparts. They can seek out alternatives to compete for an agreement and instead of competing.

As climate co-operation is not a zero-sum game in which one’s own interests conflict directly with counterparts, negotiators need to frame the negotiation co-operatively to seek pragmatic solutions to “stretch the pie” – increasing the value that all sides can claim from the negotiation.

Trust is the most important issue. The delegates at the table will be expected commit to a series agreements that they can’t be certain other nations will uphold. This refers to a social game theory like the prisoner’s dilemmaThere are situations where rational players might not cooperate, even though it would benefit them all.

They shouldn’t see climate negotiations this way. Global leaders must agree on a way for the agreed international climate cooperation agenda to be monitored, transparent, and validated as part of negotiations.

COP is an opportunity for a collective, cooperative, non-zero-sum psychological game that can achieve the dual goal of ensuring leaders meet their international obligations to our planet – and to each other – which in turn can also help to guard against the rise in nationalism which could harm future international co-operation in numerous key areas.

Since COP26 began we have been flooded by reports on the chaotic natureParticularly in relation to non-inclusivity, the Glasgow situation was criticised. Many criticisms have been levelled against the organizers for a lack in attendees from Latin America, Africa, and parts of Asia and the exclusions of people with disabilities. disabilities.

Successful negotiations require a cooperative approach. As COP26 enters week 2, we can only hope that anger will subside and that a co-operative and inclusive atmosphere will prevail.

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