By Kent Gainey
Recently participants in the Program in Advanced Security Studies 12-5 Elective “Negotiations in International Conflict” conducted an exercise focused on grasping the essential elements for successful negotiation. The elective is focused on the basic skills and elements required in mastering the art of negotiation. Over the course of the elective, participants explore the essential elements, skills, and considerations involved in negotiations through readings, lectures and case studies.
One of the highlights of the elective is a role-playing exercise that challenges the participants to work thorough a real-world scenario. Following the seminar the class was given an outlined set of circumstances for a given scenario and was then instructed to apply their newly learned skills in negotiations to come up with an appropriate solution.
Tamir Sinai, the Exercise Developer for the College of International Security Studies was in charge of developing an exercise that would challenge the students but at the same time make them use the tools they had learned over the course of the seminar.
“The objective was to show that there’s always a human element; character, individuals, cultural sensibilities, all of these are involved in negotiation so we wanted to develop something that showed these,” Sinai told me, “(It’s) not the aim to give concrete skills but in fact to sharpen their perception of the importance of non-verbal, cultural, individual and other factors in every negotiation.”
The exercise placed the group in the shoes of an official of a nongovernmental organization involved in distributing food aid during a fictional conflict zone and was based on incidents in Bosnian conflict. The humanitarian aid is then interrupted when a road block is created by a local mercenary and you as the NGO official are dispatched to resolve the issue before it leads to further problems.
As he elaborated on the goals of the exercise, Sinai explained that he wanted to place emphasis on, “The basic principles of negotiations; how to prepare, trade-offs, the limitations, and of course understanding the interests of the other side.”
The most important aspect of the exercise however, was what the participants could take away from it. “An exercise is judged by the amount and depth of the discussion it generates on the subject. In this regard, the exercise went extremely well as participants felt encouraged to share their personal experiences in real incidents that resembled the exercise, but also discussed general principles of humanitarian work and the need for well-known guidelines.” This exercise gave the participants an opportunity to exchange best practices and gain a deeper understanding of negotiation principles and variables to consider when facing these types of situations in the future.
(Kent Gainey is a blogger for the Marshall Center. Our full news report can be found here: http://www.defense.gov//News/NewsArticle.aspx?ID=116383)