The Wave/Particle Tension in Negotiation

Ran Kuttner

Creighton University School of Law – Werner Institute

June 1, 2011

Harvard Negotiation Law Review, Vol. 16, 2011


Using the wave/particle duality, a central principle in quantum physics as a metaphor, this article describes two different modes of human interaction that a negotiator should be aware of when conducting her negotiations-within, i.e. her internal negotiations with regard to how a situation should be approached, before and during the actual negotiation. The first section presents the wave/particle duality. The second section makes the transition from physics to discuss the centrality of the wave/particle duality in human everyday experience and suggests that a wave-like negotiation mindset and approach can be taught. The third section shows basic differences between wave-like and particle-like interactions, also suggesting that the ongoing debate in the literature between interest-based and relational approaches can be read in the light of the wave/particle tension or duality. The fourth section offers an analysis of the characteristics of wave-like interactions that should be cultivated by negotiators and discusses the considerations one should take into account when negotiating-within and deciding on the type of negotiation that should be applied.

The Wave:Particle Tension in Negotiation

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