Students preparing for college may think negotiation skills are exclusively for salespeople and smooth-talking boardroom bigwigs. While this is the general conception, in reality, students unknowingly enter negotiation scenarios in many aspects of life. From arranging meeting times with friends after class to when to do the dishes in the communal kitchen or at home, negotiations constitute a fundamental part of students’ daily lives.
Mapping out negotiation training course activities for students yields benefits in multiple ways, such as honing active listening skills. This article takes a closer look at a few useful activities to plan a negotiation class for college students that educators can put into practice.
Communication is an important aspect of negotiation, and the ability to communicate with effectiveness relies heavily on body language. Communication workshops are one of the key activities for students preparing for college that emphasizes the importance of nonverbal cues and mirroring.
According to Dr. Albert Mehrabian, when there’s incongruence, people tend to believe the nonverbals. The belief is that people place 55% of trust in the communicator’s body language, 38% in the communicator’s tone of voice, and only 7% in spoken words.
Body language and mirroring activities highlight how people mimic each other’s body language once trust is instilled, and what happens if trust simply never develops. To practice this negotiation fundamental, students can begin by mirroring the body language and speech of other students and provide feedback during a workshopping session.
A debrief on how well students performed and the effect it had on the other participant is a worthwhile activity. Such debriefs demonstrate the value of the exercise to the students.
Combining conflict resolution and negotiation skills can powerfully impact students. “From complicated negotiation strategies to artful subterfuge, conflict resolution games are one of the very best ways to prepare for the challenges of real-world negotiation,” Harvard Law School’s Program on Negotiation suggests.
Negotiation class role play that creates conflicting scenarios between self-interest and group wellbeing allows students to explore their opinion, listen actively, ask insightful questions, and gain confidence through perspective.
In this class activity, two different points of view are placed in the center of negotiation. Students, or groups of students, are invited to endorse one of the points of view while debating against a student or group who is representing the differing point of view. This setup allows students to safely debate through a situation of conflict with an opportunity to debrief afterward.
Also helpful is having students debate the opposite side of the issue than what’s true to their own beliefs. Advocating for an argument a student doesn’t believe in allows insight on how the students perform as negotiators without the backing of having passion for the cause. Playing out the activity in this way also stops matters from getting too heated and distracting from the aim of the activity.
One of the most invaluable skills a savvy negotiator can possess is the skill of active listening. Negotiation activities for students should most certainly emphasize active listening. Active listening skills prepare a student for what’s coming in college, for their career, and for a bright future.
“Active listening is a way of listening and responding to another person that improves mutual understanding,” suggests the United States Institute of Peace and Global Peacebuilding Center. “It is an important first step to defuse the situation and seek solutions to problems.”
An active listening activity affords students the chance to explain what active listening is. Students are able to engage in active listening with classmates and learn what it means to listen rather than just hear.
Through active listening, students learn how to read and present body language as a marker of an active listener. Students are tested on their ability to listen actively by repeating and summarizing points made by their classmates, paying particular focus to the nuances of the discourse rather than the broad strokes.
Educators want their pupils to succeed. Equipping students with powerful negotiation skills at the start of the college admission process is a useful way to give young people the confidence for beginning life as students and beyond. The skills students learn in college are intended to set students on the right track for life, and negotiation skills are an important life skill for studenthood through to adulthood and onwards into professional working life.