Studies of negotiations often overlook, or at least do not fully account for, the important role played by people who advise negotiators. Often deliberately hidden from view, advisors have important but unrecognized influence on the negotiation dynamic. In this article, I explore the roles and methods of advisors in the negotiation process, drawing on role theory and survey research conducted in 2013 among approximately seventy advisors at the European Union Council of Ministers.
I define advice as “a communication from one person (the advisor) to another (the client) for the purpose of helping that second person determine a course of action for solving a particular problem” and consider the nature of this advice and the range of relationships that may exist between advisors and their clients. Advising is much more than the mere transmittal of information from advisor to negotiator and that for advice to be effective a relationship must exist between the two parties.
I then identify three models of the advisor–negotiator relationship. The first is the advisor as director, wherein the advisor tends to take control of the negotiating process, directing the negotiator toward actions that she or he should take to achieve success at the negotiation. The second is the advisor as servant, in which the advisor merely responds to the demands of the client for help and guidance in the negotiation. And the third is the advisor as partner, wherein advisor and negotiator jointly manage the process and solve the problem together. Finally, I explore the factors that lead advisors and negotiators to adopt each of these three models, the various advising styles that advisors use, and the differing effects on the negotiation process that these elements may have, drawing on historical examples as well as survey data from the EU Council of Ministers.
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