“This isn’t something you are born with. It’s like learning a foreign language or musical instrument. It needs to be learned and practiced.”

One of Bobbi Thomason’s main goals in her popular Negotiations elective is to show EMBA students that negotiating is a learned skill. “This isn’t something you are born with. It’s like learning a foreign language or musical instrument. It needs to be learned and practiced,” she said.

Thomason, a lecturer and senior fellow in the Management Department, sees negotiation as the art and science of creating good agreements. She approaches it from both angles in her class — studying economics and psychology for the science and practicing actual negotiations for the art.

We recently sat down with Thomason to get inside insight into her Negotiations class as well as a few negotiation tips anyone can use.

What can students expect in your Negotiations class?

There is a negotiations simulation in every session — this is critical because everyone needs to learn how to negotiate. So we do a range of scenarios from one-on-one negotiations to multi-party negotiations. After students practice different skills in these simulations, we debrief.

I care a lot about those debriefs because everyone shares their successes as well as the flops and fiascos. It’s part of the learning process to talk openly about what worked and what didn’t work. They also hear about the experiences of other students, who may have tried different techniques. Then we talk about negotiations research to see what the literature advises.

What do you want students to take away from your class?

I want them to see that negotiation is a skill they can learn. I’m always surprised when accomplished, intelligent, and motivated EMBA students say that negotiations make them nervous or they don’t like it.

These students are all working in full-time, demanding jobs so it’s exciting to see them apply what they learn right away. In class, I ask them to talk about how their ongoing negotiations at work are going. Or, if they have upcoming negotiations, they get suggestions from the class about strategies. Sharing their experiences in the classroom makes it a richer learning experience for everyone.

So, at a basic level, I want them to become more comfortable and to build a toolbox for different negotiating scenarios. They should leave the class with a range of techniques from playing hard ball to collaborative approaches and understand which situations call for the various techniques.

Can you share a few negotiation tips that anyone could use?

  1. First, figure out what you are negotiating. Is it a raise? Is it time off for an EMBA program? Then, determine who the stakeholders are in this decision.
  2. Enter the negotiation armed with data to support your point of view. If you are asking for time off for an EMBA program, show how that will add value for the organization. Try to find specific examples or data points.
  3. Don’t expect an immediate resolution. It may take talking to multiple people over many days to reach a conclusion to your negotiation.
  4. Finally, make sure to practice through role playing.

Posted: September 21, 2017

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