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Use of Fuzziology when Dealing with Hard Negotiation

 Vlad Dimitrov and Alan Weinstein

University of Western Sydney

Hard Negotiation
Approach of Fuzziology
    Polarity of Position
    Emergent Deadlock
    Imposed Deadlock
    Effect of External Forces
Fuzziology in Pursuit of Consensus
'Antilogous' Leverage Point of Fuzziology
    Temporarily Transcending Fuzziness
    Incoherence Principle
    Main Theorem of Transcending Fuzziness in Hard Negotiation
Short Story instead of Conclusion
References
 
 

Fuzziology [1,2,3] studies fuzziness of human knowing - its sources, nature and dynamics not in an endeavour to reduce or eliminate it but to understand and transcend its limitations so that instead of being considered as an obstacle, it could serve as a stimulus for realization of human creativity.

The skill of transforming fuzziness inherent in our knowing (and learning) into a stimulus for creativity is of vital importance for any process of negotiation; the harder the negotiation, the greater the role of this skill.
 
 

Hard Negotiation

A negotiation process is classified as hard if the participating sides are unaware how to facilitate its unfolding (either because of the complex and/or unknown nature of the issues under consideration or because of other sources of complexity and uncertainty), so as to make its outcomes satisfactory for each side. The following situations are typical for a hard negotiation process:

(1) Sides stick to entirely opposite views without willingness to make concessions or compromise;

(2) Sides donít know how to get out of a suddenly emerged deadlock in negotiation, although there is a mutual willingness to move further;

(3) Some of the participating sides are interested in keeping the negotiation process in a state of deadlock for a certain period of time and therefore resist any further progress;

(4) There are powerful third-party forces that impede negotiation, despite the willingness of the participating sides to reach satisfactory outcomes.
 

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Approach of Fuzziology

Polarity of position

The attraction to mutually opposite positions ('polarities') strongly energizes the negotiation process and leads it to a critical state, which, according to the theory of self-organized criticality [4], is impregnated with a potential for emergence of ëavalanches of changesí. This creates an ideal situation for manifestation of the divergence syndrome [5] in negotiation; small changes in the initial condition of the negotiation process can trigger significant changes in its further unfolding. Practically, this means that it is enough for one of the participating sides to slightly move from an initially chosen position (viewpoint, stance, opinion, belief, attitude) and the whole process can 'jump' into a state which reveals opportunities for its further development.

While applying the soft approach of fuzziology, the sides become aware that their positions, initially appearing as diametrically opposite, have no hard and insurmountable boundaries. By slightly changing (expanding) one's position, the whole process might 'move' in a mutually satisfactory direction.

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Emergent Deadlock

If the negotiation process is stuck at an emergent deadlock and the sides are unaware how to overcome it, fuzziology can offer a unique way for transcending the deadlock. As far as each side is uncertain (fuzzy, ignorant) about the future unfolding of the negotiation process, there are no pre-imposed obstacles in the form of hard-to-change conceptual positions (fixed views, definite opinions) about how the negotiation should continue. The effect of "resonating fuzziness", that is, of a spontaneous overlap of the fuzzy (open for sharing with each other, flexible) thoughts of the participants about how to proceed further stimulates the emergence of creative insights in the negotiating process.

Where each of the sides has a high degree of willingness to reach mutually satisfactory outcomes, there is a higher probability that the resonating fuzziness of their conceptual positions will result in transcendence of the negotiation deadlock.

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Imposed Deadlock

If one of the participating sides has some interest in keeping the negotiation process in a state of deadlock and thus creates obstacles to any further development of the process, the approach of fuzziology is directed towards revealing the motivation behind such a behaviour. Rather than the results of human actions it is the motivation behind them that is the focus of fuzziology. This is because motivation is a fuzzy category, which always reflects a wide and complex spectrum of human thoughts, feelings, expectations, beliefs, hopes, endeavors, etc. as they emerge or disappear, persist or evolve. However strong one's motivation might be, its nature can never be described in a black-and-white way. The inherent fuzziness of motivation makes its boundaries permeable, that is, open to influence and changes. It is this openness to influence which matters most in negotiation.

By exploring in depth the motivation of the participant seeking to keep negotiation deadlocked, the other participating sides can facilitate conditions in favor of emergent changes in his/her motivation. As far as any imposed deadlock pushes the negotiation process towards criticality, the divergence syndrome releases its 'moving' power; even tiniest changes in the motivation of the side responsible for an emergent deadlock can create significant changes in the overall development of the negotiation, thus moving it eventually to satisfactory outcomes.

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Effect of External Forces

Third-party forces can affect the negotiation process in two ways:

(a) negotiation phase: through participants who are supported by these forces;

(b) implementation phase: by impeding the implementation of negotiated outcomes.

In case (a), if a participant supported by an external force tries to impose deadlock on negotiation, a strategy similar to one described above (see Imposed Deadlock) can be applied. The difference is only in the location of the source of motivation; most probably the source of motivation for impeding the negotiation process is in the external force rather than in the participant supported by this force. No matter where the source for motivation is, the sides need to explore more deeply the fuzzy nature of the motivation and to facilitate emergence of conditions (be they at local, national or international level) in favor of motivational shifts. The rest is in the hands of the divergence syndrome; when negotiation enters the critical zone, even a tiny motivational shift becomes crucial for negotiation to escape from the deadlock.

Case (b) is more difficult as it depends on the distribution of power in society. If any particular negotiation outcome meets the resistance of a force with significant power, the realization of this outcome is under threat.

Fuzziology can help in the following way. Because any social issue has many dimensions, and any agreed outcome of negotiation inevitably relates to a certain social issue, it becomes possible to elicit those dimensions of the outcome which will not evoke, at least initially, any fatal blocking resistance from the force with significant influential power. Under this condition the process of implementation can commence. Thereafter it is the breadth of the overall dynamics of social complexity that becomes decisive for the unfolding of the process. So the rule of thumb is be well prepared and proceed to take the first step; be aware of the consequential changes and use this awareness as a guide when taking subsequent steps.

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Fuzziology in Pursuit of Consensus

Fuzziology can be effectively applied to any process of consensus seeking [6]. The awareness of the fuzziness embedded in what the sides consider as known in respect of the hard negotiation process in which they have been involved, makes them more flexible when discussing each side's position and thus more prepared to act together.

The algorithm of applying fuzziology in consensus seeking is very simple:

Instead of considering one's own opinion (position, viewpoint, stance) categorical, determined and final, one looks at it as a product of knowledge which is inherently fuzzy, open to changes and non-final, and therefore without hard-to-surpass boundaries.

The realization in practice of this algorithm by the sides participating in a hard negotiation process facilitates their search for mutual understanding, concessions and compromises, and thus helps them eventually reach consensus.

Although the above algorithm sounds simple and transparent, its realization in practice is not easy as a result of three major factors:

1. To accept that one's knowledge is fuzzy means to be humble - a quality that is rarely displayed in today's competitive and power-based society. One must be self-confident and determined in order to 'fight' with others for a better position in society (where ëbetter positioní in the consumption-oriented capitalist economy means ëto have more money, more possession, a higher social status, prestige and fameí).

2. To accept that one's knowledge is fuzzy means to be ready to go beyond any dogmatic viewpoint extracted from so called 'borrowed knowledge', that is, knowledge from books, 'gurus' and 'experts', and to directly perceive the negotiation process as it is. Unfortunately, throughout life we have been taught how to apply, and rely upon various sources of borrowed knowledge. Hence the body-mind-soul's intuitive component is not well enough developed to guide us when we are seeking consensus.

3. To accept that one's knowledge is fuzzy means to be able to go deeper into one's own experience and reveal paradoxes and conundrums that nobody else could have perceived, as they belong to one's own way of experiencing life. To work in this way is not an easy task. It needs a great amount of alertness, sensitivity and thirst for knowing oneself, as well as the surrounding world. To follow a piece of borrowed knowledge is much simpler - one just reads and re-reads it, keeps it in mind and repeats it whenever necessary. No efforts to go beyond the words of others, and to search for meaning centred in one's own lived experience.

Although these three factors represent quite serious obstacles on the way to consensus in hard negotiation, no one of them is fatal to the continuation of the negotiation process. The mere awareness of the existence of impeding factors, combined with honest endeavor to understand the forces behind them, acts as a stimulus towards seeking consensus. As it was shown in our earlier studies [7], the higher the willingness of the participating sides to stay in an open dialogue which results in an increased degree of mutual trust and facilitates creativity, the more prepared the sides are for joint action towards consensus.

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'Antilogous' Leverage Point of Fuzziology

Temporarily Transcending Fuzziness

Hard negotiations often have roots in intricate paradoxical situations, which cannot be resolved using rational thinking. Logic, be it black-and-white; fuzzy; inductive; abductive; or deductive, is helpless with paradoxes. The way to deal with paradoxes is to transcend them, that is, to bring forth conditions under which the paradoxes dissolve. This is the way of fuzziology: we succeed in transcending the fuzziness inherent in our knowing not by trying to reduce or eliminate it, but by linking (connecting, overlapping, superimposing) all available pieces of fuzzy knowing so as to allow the emergence of a 'higher levelí type of knowing. This higher level type of knowing transcends the fuzziness of what was thought to be known before, and thus in relation to the previous level of knowing from which it has emerged appears non-fuzzy, although sooner or later it again becomes fuzzy.

For example, the fuzziness accumulated when trying to explain the discoveries of quantum physics in the framework of the Newtonian paradigm brought about the new paradigm of Einstein as a 'higher levelí of knowing, in which most of the fuzziness related to the Newtonian paradoxes and discrepancies were resolved. The new paradigm appeared much more adequate to the observed phenomena and much more precise (non-fuzzy) in describing them. Subsequently, with the further development of this new paradigm, other paradoxes and discrepancies started to emerge as new sources of fuzziness, which persistently 'fuzzify' the knowing related to the new paradigm. This is the natural way of expanding and evolving human knowing.

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Incoherence Principle

The famous paradox of K. Arrow (known as Arrow Impossibility Theorem [8]) reveals the impossibility of generating a socially satisfactory (democratic) choice from deterministic (precisely defined) choices of individuals making up a society. In other words, it does not matter what kind of group choice rules are applied, they cannot help in aggregating the deterministic viewpoints (positions, opinions, preferences) of the participants into a deterministic viewpoint of the whole group, which is compatible with (acknowledges, takes into consideration) each participant's choice. According to Arrowís Impossibility Theorem, the group choice will be dictatorial - imposed either by some participant in the group or from outside the group.

As shown earlier by one of the authors [9], the paradox of Arrow dissolves if the individuals' choices are indeterministic (fuzzy). According to the so-called Incoherence Principle (Dimitrov, 1983), the more certain (non-fuzzy, determinate) each individual's choice, the more uncertain (fuzzy, indeterminate) the democratic choice of the whole group, and on the contrary: the more fuzzy the individual choices, the greater the chance for the group to negotiate a socially satisfactory deterministic (categorical, non-fuzzy) choice.

When applied to negotiation, the Incoherence Principle becomes a kind of magic tool for achievement of precisely defined outcomes (actions), which take into consideration and fully acknowledge the fuzzy choices of each side participating in the negotiation.

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Main Theorem of Transcending Fuzziness in Hard Negotiation

As far as the approach of fuzziology is strongly in favor of fuzzy (indeterministic) individual choices, it provides an efficient antilogous (contradictory, irrational) leverage point to transcend the paradox of Arrow in the process of hard negotiation.

Logic would require correspondence between deterministic individual choices and the deterministic group choice, (that is deterministic individual choices need to be mapped into a deterministic group choice coherent with the choices of the individuals). But the paradox of Arrow denies such logic. The Incoherence Principle offers a kind of anti-logical way: it is the fuzzy individual choices that can lead to a deterministic and yet democratic choice of the group as a whole. This is consistent with what fuzziology facilitates in the negotiation process. By acknowledging that the fuzziness is inherent in each individual's process of knowing and learning, fuzziology strongly supports the fuzzy expression of an individual choice.

In the case of hard negotiation, when the negotiated issues are complex, intricately interwoven and dynamic, it is much more natural for each participating side to express its viewpoints (positions, opinions, preferences) in a fuzzy way than to look for precise definitions. One simply cannot be precise when trying to grasp holistically and yet meaningfully the nature of the issues discussed in the hard negotiation process. Therefore, the use of fuzziology in hard negotiation is not only desirable because of the openness, non-finality and flexibility of its approaches, it has a transparent mathematical explanation rooted in the Incoherence Principle.

If the participants involved in hard negotiation are committed to reaching precisely formulated negotiation outcomes (actions), satisfactory for each side, their positions need to be formulated in a fuzzy way.

The above theorem epitomizes the phenomenon of transcending fuzziness while using fuzziology as an antilogous leverage point: the fuzzy (indeterministic) positions of the sides participating in a hard negotiation process can result in precise (deterministic) outcomes - actions. It is clear that such a non-fuzzy transcendence does not last for ever (see para ëTemporarily Transcending Fuzzinessí); the ever-changing dynamics of social complexity are hardly compatible with long-persisting negotiation outcomes, particularly if their emergence is a result of hard negotiation.

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Short Story instead of Conclusion

Let us consider a possible case of a hard negotiation process described in a story illustrating achievement of precise negotiation outcomes while facilitating indeterministic positions of two participating sides, that is, positions rooted in essentially fuzzy motivation related to 'pride', 'sense of place', 'spirituality', 'national characteristics'. The heroine of the story (a conceptual tool personified as Fuzzi Ology) becomes facilitator of a negotiation about the Golan Heights involving two spiritual representatives of opposing nations - an imam representing the Syrian position and a rabbi representing the position of Israel.

ÖThe rabbi and the imam were deep in conversation. The subjects were wide-ranging, the discussion friendly, Fuzzi Ology was intrigued.

"Hhmmm..." Fuzzi cleared her throat, alerting them to her presence. "I didn't know Israeli priests and Syrian priests ever got together, aren't you two meant to be enemies?"

The imam looked up. In his eyes there was a softness, the mellowed state of passing years and considerable wisdom, not the merest hint of arrogance showed there. He answered Fuzzi this way.

"The rabbi and I are long time friends. Each of us has a strong interest in theology, and, though clear about our respective calling decided to investigate the religions and beliefs that sometimes segregate, sometimes unify, the people of the world today."

"That's right," said the rabbi, "we've exhaustively reviewed the little known, the well known, the ancient and the new."

It was the imam's turn again. "You seemed surprised to overhear us in animated but friendly discussion, given that our governments are hostile towards one another, and unable to resolve the question of sovereignty for the Golan Heights, won as a prize of war when Israel and Syria fought in 1973. My people are a proud people, they will not rest easily until their honour is satisfied, until the Golan Heights are once again their own."

The rabbi's intelligent eyes twinkled, his crooked teeth now discoloured with age, showed occasionally, although his straggly grey moustache and lush beard mostly hid his mouth from Fuzziís view. This subject of the mountain, and the ongoing disquiet between Israel and her Syrian neighbour obviously taxed him, his shoulders had slumped noticeably as the imam had aired his views.

The rabbi said, "My people are intelligent, and experience has taught them to be concerned for their security. They know the value of high strategic ground from which to fight in times of war, and from which to observe in times of uneasy peace. Obviously we cannot relinquish use of the mountain."

Fuzzi turned to the imam, "What did your people use the mountain for before the Israelis occupied it?"

"A few nomadic goat-herders tended their flocks in the lower reaches, that, is all."

Fuzzi had listened carefully to both of these spiritual leaders. The heartfelt nature of their representations was easily perceptible to her. As she had listened she observed the essence of the problem dissolving for each in their own way had (unwittingly, but) through their openness provided a half of the solution she was now formulating for this seemingly knotty problem.

"Gentlemen," she said, "As I listen to you present the issues at stake, I hear that for the Arabsí pride is of paramount concern, for the Israelisí security the highest consideration. What if I could propose a solution that caters to both sides needs, would you take it to your people?"

"Certainly," said the imam. The rabbi said, "Of course"

"Rabbi, go and ask your people to give back the mountain to The Syriansí for if you do not satisfy their pride you will never be at peace. Tell them that to satisfy Israel's security needs, The Syriansí will agree on a perpetual lease to Israel of suitable parts of the mountain to be used as observation posts."

"Imam, go tell your people that you can get back the mountain, and a generous annual rental for the observation posts the Israelisí will retain the use of."

There was a pause... then the imam leant over towards the rabbi and whispered in tones Fuzzi could only just hear, "Who is this Fuzzi Ology that helps emerge such elegant solutions?"

"You haven't heard of Fuzzi Ology?" the rabbi sounded surprised. "Sheís a conceptual tool for the new millennium serving business, governments, and international organisations, in their efforts to resolve complex negotiation. She brings forth and together disparate knowledge and people to adjust existing, and create new conceptual frameworks that work for the business, national and international communities providing the framework through which it can be seen that problems can not only be solved but also dissolved and transcended.

"Aah", said the imam, "usefulÖuseful indeed!"

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References

1. Dimitrov, V. (2001) Introduction to Fuzziology, in Fuzzy Logic: A Paradigm for the New Millennium, Eds. V. Dimitrov and V. Korotkich, Heidelberg-New York (http://www.uws.edu.au/vip/dimitrov/study-of-fuzziness.htm)

2. Dimitrov, V. et al (2001) Fuzziology and Social Complexity, in Advances in Fuzzy Systems and Evolutionary Computation, Ed. N. Mastorakis, World Scientific Engineering Society Press: New York, Athens, pp. 88-93

3. Dimitrov, V. and Stewart, B. (2001) Social Fuzziology in Action: Acquisition and Making Sense of Social Information, in Soft computing in measurement and information acquisition, Eds. L. Reznik and V. Kreinovich, Physica-Verlag, Heidelberg-New York

4. Bak, P. (1996) How Nature Works, Copernicus, NY

5. Dimitrov, V. at al (996) The Divergence Syndrome in Social Systems, in Complex Systems 96, Eds. R. Stocker, H. Jelinek, B. Durnota and T. Bossomaier, IOS Press: Amsterdam, Oxford, Tokyo, Washington, pp.142-146 (http://www.csu.edu.au/ci/vol3/dimitro/dimitro.html)

6. Dimitrov, V. and Russell, D. (1994) The Fuzziness of Communication: A Catalyst for Seeking Consensus, in Swamped by Understanding: A collection of papers to celebrate the visit to Australia, in August 1994, by Humberto Maturana, Eds: L.Fell, D. Russell, and A. Stewart, University of Western Sydney, Hawkesbury, pp. 207-215 http://www.univie.ac.at/constructivism/books/seized/fuzcom.html

7. Dimitrov, V. (1997) Use of Fuzzy Logic in Dealing with Social Complexity, Complexity International, vol.4 http://www.csu.edu.au/ci/vol04/dimitrov1/dimitrov.htm

8. Arrow, K. (1970) Social Choice and Individual Values, Yale Univ. Press

9. Dimitrov, V. (1983) Group choice under fuzzy information, Fuzzy Sets and Systems, 9: 25-39

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