Dissertations and Theses @ UNI


Open Access Thesis


Negotiation; Interpersonal communication;


This case study examined negotiation tactics and strategies by challenging the theoretical basis for and actual use of William Donahue's negotiation interaction coding system. Three subproblems investigated the coding categories' construct validity, the negotiators' coordination and co-orientation, and their constitutive and regulative rules.

The method involved naturalistic observation in a quasi-experimental simulation of a civil suit, out-of-court proceeding. Twenty subjects role-played as attorneys for the plaintiff and defendant. Five pairs were students in a college course on negotiation, and five pairs were professionals whose work required bargaining skills.

The negotiators were given hypothetical case "facts" and encouraged to role play as realistically as possible. Their interaction was audiotape recorded and transcribed. Following the negotiation, a questionnaire devised by the researcher sought to obtain participant perceptions of the event and their opponent's behaviors, and to indirectly reveal support for or rejection of Donahue's assumptions. The researcher then applied Donahue's coding categories. On the next day, participants identified whether each utterance constituted what Donohue labelled as an attack, defense, or regression. The interviewer attempted to probe for further explanation of each remark and its intent. Follow-up interview questions uncovered levels of coordination through clarity and understanding.

Data collection and discussion took several forms. Participants' codings were compared with one another's and with the observer's, both by individual utterances and by total attacks, defenses, and regressions. Win/loss outcomes (based on dollar settlements) and negotiation lengths were compared across negotiations, as were questionnaire and interview results. Each case was also examined for unique factors influencing negotiation outcome.

Although participants' interpretations generally upheld the validity of Donahue's coding categories and revisions, difficulties surfaced. The system failed to account for the relative strength of tactics, or for purely clarifying utterances. Some categories required development by broadening or narrowing their definitions. And greater use of attacking tactics did not always correlate with win/loss outcome. Further, the more perceptive and "coordinated" negotiators tended to be more successful, with levels of understanding critical. Participants did appear to apply rules in interpreting meaning (constitutive) and sequencing behaviors (regulative). However, these did not necessarily match Donahue's rules.

Serendipitous findings included a tendency for cooperative negotiations to be characterized by integrative bargaining styles, while competitive negotiations entailed aggressive, distributive interaction. Professionals understood and explained behaviors better than did the student negotiators.

This study also illustrated a conflict between Donahue's "rule-following" theoretical perspective and the negotiators' actual behaviors. The "rule-using" orientation of the theory of the Coordinated Management of Meaning appeared to better accommodate idiosyncratic actions and uses of tactics. Suggestions for future research included continued development of the coding system and incorporation of the study of elements such as coordination and prescriptions of force behind negotiators' actions.

Year of Submission


Degree Name

Master of Arts


Department of Theatre


Department of Speech

First Advisor

Forrest Conklin


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Date Original


Object Description

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