Andrea Kupfer Schneider
Marquette University – Law School
June 24, 2012
Washington University Journal of Law and Policy, Vol. 39, p. 13, 2012
Marquette Law School Legal Studies Paper No. 12-28
Negotiation labels — of styles or approaches — can hide or overshadow the real focus of negotiation skills training. We need to categorize in order to convey a significant amount of complex information. We also know that style labels are pithy and easy to understand. At the same time, we need to teach the weaknesses of labels and be sure that our students are not over reliant on the simplification that labels provide. Students need to struggle with the nuances of skills — the fact that skills can seem contradictory or counterintuitive leads us to want to oversimplify (e.g. all competitive negotiators are jerks, all accommodators are nice) rather than more effectively parsing each skill to stand on its own. This is particularly important in the areas of social intuition and ethicality which have, up to this point, been subsumed in discussions of style without holding their own style label.
When we focus on skills — assertiveness, empathy, flexibility, social intuition, and ethicality — we can provide students clear goals for improving in all areas while making them more aware of their particular strengths and weaknesses. Further, we can highlight the choices that they must make along the course of negotiation in terms of using each skill rather than sending them off with guidance only at the style level. Finally, we can give students a different construct — negotiation origami — on how to choose among the skills based on client, counterpart, and context that will give them a more sophisticated understanding of the evolving and nuanced process of negotiation.