Will AI change the way we carry out negotiations? - Daniel Freeman

Most of us will have encountered artificial intelligence (AI) without realising it – from asking Alexa about the weather to even watching Terminator. AI is becoming smarter and part of our daily lives. Will it be able to negotiate if that’s part of your role, especially since AI can take multiple calculations and project scenarios in a fraction of a second?

As a negotiation trainer, it’s crossed my mind. Should we be wary of AI or is it a godsend? The answer lies somewhere in between. AI cannot replace the history you’ve built with clients, it won’t know how to identify long term organisational opportunities, it can’t detect the nuances of human emotions or adapt culturally, and it can’t account for practical experience and your gut feeling. It can’t replace what makes us human, but here are five productive things that it can help with.

1. Sometimes we don’t get enough time to prepare for negotiations. We can ask AI to do some of the heavy lifting, so we don’t spend valuable time on the internet scrolling to get information. AI can pull together research, provide facts and figures on market conditions to establish our position in a negotiation and back up our arguments.

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2. It’s not always clear what negotiation strategy is the right one, there may be several paths but which one is best to get the desired result? AI could help play out your strategies and their likely successes in real time, outlining the pros and cons of each. It can pose other strategies you may not have thought of or troubleshoot any that aren’t working, saving you time and a possible headache.

AI could help negotiators, but it lacks the human element (Picture: AREE - stock.adobe.com)AI could help negotiators, but it lacks the human element (Picture: AREE - stock.adobe.com)
AI could help negotiators, but it lacks the human element (Picture: AREE - stock.adobe.com)

3. A lot of time is spent thinking about how best to word our opening remarks in a negotiation. Instead of writing something from scratch, we can ask AI to write an opening statement by telling it the scenario, what to include, what we think the tone should be etc. This can save us quite a bit of time, but it will still need sense checking.

4. It can be difficult trying to predict what the other side will say and what arguments they will use to counter the points you’re making. We can use AI to try and predict any possible responses to our points and use those responses to be better prepared for any push back, saving time arguing with the other side and increasing confidence.

5. Depending on the time taken to agree a deal, as well as the complexity of the issues involved, reviewing a contract could take hours, days or weeks. AI could help accelerate this, scanning the document for legal clauses, even giving examples of past legal cases that were based on a particular clause. AI can make changes, reword elements or generate summaries for the most important sections. If AI is effective enough, it may even be able to create parts of a contract for you once it has all the relevant information.

There are many things AI can do to improve your workflow, but relationship-based negotiations require a human element. AI has no common sense, wisdom or empathy which is sometimes needed in negotiations. Using AI as a productivity tool instead of a replacement to aid your negotiations is more of a realistic prospect.

Daniel Freeman, Senior Consultant, Scotwork International