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The Art of Negotiation & Useful Negotiation Skills

“We shall never negotiate out of fear. But we shall never fear to negotiate.” — JFK

Negotiate means to reach an agreement or compromise by discussion with others. Every day, people reach a lot of decisions through negotiation. High school students can also benefit from developing negotiation skills and applying them in real life. Here are some ways they can use negotiation skills effectively:

When working on group projects, students can negotiate roles, responsibilities, and deadlines to ensure fair distribution of work and maximize efficiency.

For clubs and leadership, students can use negotiation skills to negotiate budget, plan events, and allocate resources. In the meantime, this can foster a sense of engagement among club members.

Negotiation skills are also very useful for peer interactions, especially for conflict resolution. High school environments often involve conflicts among students or with teachers. Negotiation skills can help students address conflicts, express concerns, and finding common ground.

The Cooperative Negotiating Strategy, CNS is a very useful and effective strategy. The basic premise of CNS is that there is an ability to create new value for each party involved and help manage long-term relationships. CNS maximizes both parties’ interests and integrate their ideas into a solution that is better than what either party could have come up with on their own.

Here are three reasons that CNS is useful.

The first reason is that CNS changes negotiation from a contest of wills to a search for solutions. CNS can shift the negotiation dynamic away from the primary focus on making concessions, to a genuine search for win-win solutions.

The second reason is that CNS focuses on underlying interests. CNS recognizes that each party’s underlying interests are at the heart of their dispute. So it is more important to know why the other party wants something, instead of just focusing on what they want. The underlying interests include their desires, values, concerns, fears and limitations. CNS requires each party to articulate their own interests and understand their counterpart’s interests as well. So they can not only identify their shared interest, but also prioritize which interests are most to least important.

The third reason is that CNS searches for solutions based on differences. CNS recognizes that parties have differing interests, priorities, preferences, and needs. By uncovering these preferences, parties can better search for solutions that satisfy the priority needs of each party, and find the best solution to meet both parties’ interests.

For example, imagine two student clubs, the Drama Club and the Music Club, both want to organize a joint event at the school. The Drama Club wants to stage a play, while the Music Club wants to organize a concert. Both clubs have limited resources and need to negotiate to create a successful event that satisfies the interests of all members involved.

In this case, the shared interests between the two clubs could be showcasing their talents, entertaining the school community, or raising funds for a charitable cause. Once they clarify their underlying interests and common goals, they can listen to each other’s concerns. The Drama Club understands the importance of the concert to the Music Club, and vice versa.

The clubs could agree on a format where they combine their talents. For example, they can plan a musical play with acting scenes and musical performances, which allows both clubs to showcase their abilities. Or they could consider having different segments for the play and the concert within the same event. Their solution needs to make sure that both clubs feel valued and satisfied with the event. Eventually, they can ensure a balanced and enjoyable event for everyone involved.

The Cooperative Negotiating Strategy is for ideal scenarios. However, sometimes we still need to make reasonable concessions. We can determine our best alternative to a negotiated agreement, which is our BATNA.

A BATNA is a back-up plan that we are comfortable implementing if we can’t reach an agreement with the parties involved. Presenting our BATNA is a way to show that we have considered a practical alternative that aligns with our goals while being mindful of the other party’s limitations.

For example, imagine a high school student who is a member of their school's debate club, and they are part of a team that wants to participate in a regional debate competition. The team needs funds to cover travel expenses, registration fees, and accommodation. The student needs to negotiate the budget within the club.

In this scenario, the student's BATNA could be: organizing a local debate tournament or workshop at the school, instead of participating in the regional competition. By organizing a local event, the club can save on travel and accommodation costs, while still gaining valuable debate experience.

During the budget negotiation within the club, the student can present the BATNA as a feasible alternative. They could tell their club members, "I understand that participating in the regional debate competition is important to all of us, but considering our budget constraints, we could organize a local debate tournament or workshop here at school. It would allow us to showcase our skills, gain experience without the additional expenses of traveling. This way, we can still achieve our goals within our budget."

Presenting the BATNA in this way shows that the student has considered a practical alternative that aligns with the club's objectives, while being mindful of financial limitations. It can help the student negotiate effectively and find a solution that works for everyone involved.

Besides preparing our BATNA, there are also a few things we need to remember when negotiating.

The first thing we need to remember is that most people have difficulty understanding the other side’s perspective, and overcoming this self-centered tendency is critical.

You don’t have to like the person that you are negotiating with, but you need to respect them, and they need to respect you. If you want to get what you want, you need to understand what the other party wants first. So if you want the other side to appreciate your interests, you can start by demonstrating that you appreciate theirs. Also, don’t forget to anticipate potential objections, so you can plan your responses in advance.

The second thing we need to remember is that it’s a common mistake to get too committed to our point of view.

We tend to overvalue our information and undervalue the counterpart’s information. If we get too committed to our point of view, it may prevent us from exploring alternative options that could be more beneficial for both parties.

Negotiations often involve compromise, and being too committed to our viewpoint can limit our ability to find mutually agreeable solutions. A strong commitment to our own viewpoint may result in closed-mindedness. There's also the risk of escalating conflicts. So we need to avoid being too committed to our viewpoint.

The third thing is that failing to document agreements can lead to misunderstandings and disputes in the future. When we are negotiating with someone, we must ensure that all agreements are clearly documented in writing. This can prevent misinterpretations and provide a reference point for both parties.

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