Due to media and other sources, the term “negotiation” often invokes an image of high-stakes, nail biting talks. Picture Trump in one corner, Putin in another, and Kim Jong-un in the third corner. All three simultaneously yelling demands and not listening to each other. Or two sets of corporate leaders, each backed by a battalion of lawyers exchanging volumes of documents and speaking in complex terms.
Negotiation is not always that complex. It can be as simple as you and your sibling agreeing on what Netflix show to watch. It could be agreeing with classmates on how to divide responsibilities in a group assignment at school.
Student negotiation skills training can support your quest for attaining great GPA scores, gaining Ivy League admission, being granted a full-ride scholarship, and being prepared for the job market. Here are five top tips to use in negotiations and become an outstanding student.
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Prepare Early, Prepare Well
Whatever you seek to attain, start preparing for it early. Are you looking to get admission into a popular and competitive class that has a low acceptance rate?
Then start working on your grades and test scores early. Find out what courses are central to qualifying for that class. Look into if you need to apply under the Early Decision and Early Action admission plans. Additionally, research on what other achievements can give you a leg-up in qualifying.
Keep in mind that exclusive classes with low acceptance rates don’t just look at grades. They consider other personal traits, too. Prepare to articulate your passions, extra-curricular projects, sportsmanship, attended classes, and participation in academic clubs. Let the professor or admissions office know how you’ll be adding value to the class. Demonstrable skills like time management and leadership boost your chances of success.
Preparation works for almost all types of student negotiations. Apply early and use thorough preparation to negotiate a great outcome. Your goal could be admission into a fraternity/sorority, an academic club, or a study group. It could even be securing an awesome off-campus apartment.
Rank Your Priorities
Most negotiations involve some give and take. For instance, if you’re applying for a residence hall you might end up with strangers as roommates. You may need to set up some dorm room rules on issues such as:
- Lights out
- Nights out
- Guests and “sexile” etiquette
- Open door and closed door policies
Sometimes, you and your roommate may not see eye to eye on some issues. Decide which rules are dealmakers for you and which ones are deal breakers. For example, you might be happy to agree to extend lights-out hours. However, you might totally disapprove of being an overnight “sexile.” Rank your priorities to figure out which rules are important to you. Prepare to be flexible on those you don’t mind losing, but be firm on the non-negotiables.
Aim for Win-Win
Many people have the idea that negotiation is about winning over someone else. You might think that it’s about claiming as much value as you can at the expense of someone else. In real life, and more so in school life, negotiation is about finding mutually acceptable and beneficial outcomes.
Student-focused negotiating classes offer training to enable students to explore their own positions and those of others to find consensus. Your student colleagues, lecturers, and coaches are likely to have an impact on your school achievements. It’s important to maintain good relationships with those around you. This often means entering into agreements that meet your needs and theirs.
Try to set objective criteria so you start off with shared values. For example, you might want to convince your fraternity to include a community service fee in the fraternity dues. Some members may balk at the additional expense while others may see the community service fee as a waste of money.
Others may see the virtue in the contribution but complain of affordability. To handle objections, you can persuade the fraternity to reduce costs of parties to accommodate the extra fees while organizing certificates for participants in the community service program. Introducing community service certificates may appeal to students who want to stand out. Colleges and employers value students with extra-curricular certificates.
Use Skillful Questioning
Imagine you have one group member who is always skipping group meetings. Most times, he submits his group assignment tasks later than the others. While other group members may just focus on the tardiness, you can use your skills to help the situation. Using the skillful questioning taught at negotiating classes is one way to motivate your colleague.
Asking questions in negotiations can support your quest to:
- Gain information: What are the given reasons or excuses?
- Gain an understanding of the situation: What are the underlying reasons?
- Determine interest levels of others: Is the group work something of interest to the member?
- Encourage the participation of others: What can be done to increase timely participation?
- Give information: What does the group request from the member?
- Get opinions: What does the member think about the group and its activities?
- Guide attention and direct focus: Where is the group headed?
- Reduce tension: Increase understanding and empathy, introduce solutions, and reduce resentment
For your questions to be geared toward win-win negotiation solutions, you may need to:
Have a Plan
Know what your goals for the negotiations are. Have a questioning sequence that gently leads others to a desirable goal. Ask questions that are relevant to your endgame.
Know Your Target
In our example of the tardy group member, get to know the member personally. What drives, motivates, and inspires them? The knowledge you gain can guide what kinds of questions to ask and which topics to steer clear of.
Be sensitive to schedules. Also, know when to introduce controversial lines of questioning. If you start off on the wrong foot, you may not meet a positive outcome.
Observe etiquette by first asking for permission before questioning. With permissions, you’re more likely to gain genuine answers and move toward an agreeable settlement.
Know Your BATNA (Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement)
As an outstanding student, you know what you want out of your college experience, right? For example, you may study a subject because of your career ambitions. However, life happens, and things won’t always go your way.
So what happens when you don’t get what you want out of your negotiations? Do you give in and accept solutions that don’t align with your ambitions?
Top online negotiation workshops advocate for developing a Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement (BATNA). A BATNA is a plan you develop before going into negotiations. It helps define your walk-away point by knowing your other options.
It makes sense to have a few alternatives in case you don’t get what you want. You can make better decisions in a negotiation when you know what your options are.
Having a BATNA applies in almost every kind of negotiation in and out of student life. For example, you might have your heart set on joining the most popular sorority. However, it pays to check the requirements for some of the less popular sororities just in case your top choice doesn’t pan out.