There are non-negotiable issues in a conflict.
But a lot of those issues are determined to be non-negotiable by the parties involved in the conflict.
If a party decides that their emotions are the only driver that matters, and that they aren’t going to put those emotions away, for the sake of getting to a deal, then that party’s emotions are non-negotiable.
If a party decides that other parties who aren’t at the table (i.e. outsiders, colleagues, an audience, etc.,) are the ones that are going to control how the negotiation goes, then those outside actors become non-negotiable elements.
If a party decides that their current mood (which can change, day-to-day, moment-to-moment) is the only mood that matters (because, well, it’s their mood) then that decision becomes non-negotiable.
We often think of everything as being negotiable, which is not the same sentiment as “Everyone has a price” or “Everyone can be bought.” Many things, issues, positions, and interests are indeed negotiable. But the problem is, each party decides what’s on the table—and what isn’t.
What makes this decision particularly sticky is that moods, emotions, relationships with other parties not at the table, and many other non-negotiable elements of a negotiation process, involve recognizing the impact of identity, story, and meaning.
And who really wants to negotiate their identity, story, or meaning with a party, whom they automatically have framed as untrustworthy before the negotiation even began?
The skills of persuasion, evasion, coercion, facilitation, and active listening, are often discounted in the rush to close a deal. But those skills become crucial ones for negotiators to value and practice.
Honing the craft of negotiation is more than about sitting in a room and role-playing a case study. Honing the craft of negotiation is about developing intuition, patience, rapport, and caring along with those other skills, in order to get the best possible outcome.
Which usually just means, “The outcome that works best for me, right now.”