Teaching Negotiation

A bi-annual e-newsletter from [email protected]

(Negotiation Pedagogy at the Program on Negotiation)

Volume 3, Issue 2
Summer 2010

In This Issue
New Teaching Notes for Three Values-based Mediation Simulations
Bruce Patton on Teaching the Micro-Skills of Negotiation
Making and Using Films to Teach Negotiation
Mediation Curriculum: Trends and Variations
Negotiation Journal Welcomes Submissions on Teaching
About [email protected]
New Teaching Notes for Three Values-Based Mediation Simulations
by Orlee Rabin


[email protected] has developed several new Teaching Notes to accompany the three values-based and identity-based simulations described in the last [email protected] Newsletter.  The simulations are available along with an overview Teaching Note, individual teaching notes for each game, and an Annotated Bibliography. The overview Note offers extensive guidance on how to organize discussions about value-based disputes (VBD).


The three simulations focus on situations in which values and identities are at the forefront of the dispute, challenging students to move away from the usual focus on positions and interests, to an analysis of underlying values and beliefs as the source of the conflict.  The role-play simulations, Williams v. Northville, Ellis v. MacroB, and Springfield OutFest, are based on actual disputes (that were not mediated) and which deal with issues of homosexuality and religious identity. More about these cases can be found in Jennifer Gerarda Brown's "Peacemaking in the Culture War Between Gay Rights and Religious Liberty," Iowa Law Review, Volume 95, p. 747, 2010.  Students do not need to be studying law to benefit from the simulations. (For more information on the simulations, click here).


Created by mediation students at Harvard Law School in the fall of 2009, the overview Teaching Note examines five different approaches to mediating values-based and identity-based disputes, and outlines potential teaching strategies for each of the three simulations.  Additionally, the Teaching Note summarizes student reactions to the simulations.


Values-based disputes present unique challenges for a mediator, as the common interest-based techniques may not lead to a durable resolution that satisfies the parties' most important concerns.  The individual game Teaching Notes and the overview Note clarify the relationships among interests, values, and identities, and further explain the distinguishing features of VBDs. 


Before entering a VBD, a mediator must evaluate the relative importance of values and fundamental beliefs.  Mediators can choose from among a range of approaches and assess the best strategy (or combination of strategies) relative to the particular dispute. The Teaching Notes detail five approaches:


1)      Withdraw: choose not to mediate.

2)      Consider interests and values separately.

3)      Facilitate dialogue and offer opportunities for deeper mutual  understanding and relationship building.

4)      Appeal to overarching values.

5)      Confront values directly.


Each approach is thoroughly assessed, evaluated for advantages and disadvantages, and considered in the context of the three simulations as well as other disputes.  Recommendations are given as to how to combine certain strategies.


VBDs are common, and often seemingly intractable.  The overview Teaching Note outlines a number of possible teaching strategies for each or all of the three games:


1)      Contrast the experience of mediating one values-based simulation with at least one interest-based simulation.

2)      Focus on the various ways in which stakeholders understand how and why values at stake in each of the three simulations.

3)      Compare the different strategies for handling VBDs highlighted in the overview Teaching Note by approaching the same game in several different ways.


All three teaching techniques reinforce the idea that there is variability in the way that stakeholders adhere to and describe their own values, which in turn affects the choice of a mediation strategy. 


To prepare teachers for student reactions to the simulations, the overview Teaching Note concludes with reflections by students who have played all three games, including general reactions and simulation- specific reactions.  The Annotated Bibliography provides teachers with brief summaries of more than a dozen highly relevant publications. 

Bruce Patton on Teaching the Micro-Skills of Negotiation
by Orlee Rabin

There is often a profound gap - of which we are typically unaware - between what we "know" or "believe" about effective negotiation practice and what we actually do as practitioners under pressure.  Bruce Patton, the founder of Vantage Partners and co-founder of the Harvard Negotiation Project, advocates helping students master key "micro-skills" to enable them to demonstrate competent macro-behaviors in negotiation. In his presentation "Using Micro-Skills Practice to Enable Competent Macro-Behaviors" at the December 2009 PON Faculty Dinner Seminar, Patton outlined the innovative technique that is reviewed in this article.


Patton emphasized that teachers wanting to help students learn to use knowledge (as opposed to acquiring knowledge) and build skills (as opposed to learning about skills) should take a "Joint Learning" approach to teaching negotiation. The emphasis ought to be on active learning by doing with the teacher playing the role of facilitator, interlocutor, and analyst.  Teachers should use a range of teaching strategies to enable students to build skills in negotiation, including activities to develop problem awareness/appreciation, facilitated review, and micro-skills practice, to name a few.  


Chris Argyris demonstrated that there is a cognitive gap between what we know and are able to see others doing, and what we ourselves do; further, we are often unaware of this gap (Argyris, Putnam, and Smith 1985).  As Patton puts it, we store analytic knowledge in a different part of our brain from our action repertoire.  Helping students overcome this gap requires building in-the-moment awareness and the neural pathways needed for new responses.


Patton and his associates devised micro-skill building exercises after realizing that negotiation students were able to critique other students when they did certain things incorrectly, but were completely unaware that they were doing the same things themselves.  The goal of micro-skills exercises is to be able to demonstrate the specific activities required to perform a specific negotiation skill when prompted and when appropriate.  By pulling apart these skills piece by piece, students can learn to reconstruct behaviors and perform a skillful combination of negotiation tasks. Through guided instruction, role-playing, and repetition, the micro-skills method enables students to devise new cognitive practices that bridge the gap between knowing/understanding and doing. 



Patton demonstrated how micro-skills exercises can help in teaching and conceptualizing the difficult task of active listening.   He explained, "Productive conversations do not involve 20 minutes of listening, followed by 20 minutes of sharing and telling your story. Rather, they move very rapidly between inquiring into and testing your understanding of what the other side said, and then sharing your response to that. . . .You are really digging into each other's story." To create an effective dialogue, you need three micro-skills of active listening: genuine inquiry, paraphrasing logic or meaning, and demonstrating empathy with feelings.   The skills are essential for any productive conversation as they "help the other side actually feel like you have heard them, and that at some point you have understood them ... because if you want someone to listen to you, it is necessary for them to feel listened to."


With his colleagues, Patton devised a simple two-sided scenario and a series of practice exercises to develop the needed skills.  In the first phase, one party acts as a "talker" and the other as a "listener," with the talker initiating a provocative conversation and the listener asked to demonstrate one of the three active listening micro-skills by a "coach."  Through repetition, the listener must gradually demonstrate an ability to produce each one of three micro-skills and understand the differences among them. 


The second phase of the exercise the listener and talker engage in a conversation in which the listener tries to combine the micro-skills to demonstrate understanding, but without revealing their own view.  The talker and coach are given an unpleasant imaginary buzzer and must "buzz" the listener whenever s/he accidentally reveals his/her own views.  Listeners' brains quickly figure out how to avoid the buzzer, giving the listener the ability to recognize when their "listening" is being contaminated by their own view and turning into "spin." 


By using such repetitive exercises to develop and reinforce neural pathways, or habits, the student is more likely to repeat these behaviors under pressure, as the brain favors well-traveled pathways. 


Micro-skills are just one part of a teacher's overall approach to teaching negotiation, but they are a critical piece in enabling students to use critical skills under pressure in real situations.  



For more information on micro-skills management and other teaching approaches, go to:

Making and Using Films to Teach Negotiation
by Orlee Rabin

Access to multimedia content is rapidly increasing throughout the world, with videos and short clips permeating our daily life - whether in gas stations, on ATMs, cell phones, or mobile entertainment devices.   We are consuming, producing, and interacting with videos more now than ever before: YouTube is the third-most visited website on the Internet, the website Hulu is now seen as a competitor to cable TV, and Flip Cameras and digital technology like Movie Maker and iMovie allow a novice to become a director, cinematographer, and producer with little effort.[i]  In light of increasing trends toward video fluency and interest in using videos in education, the Program on Negotiation Clearinghouse is making a concerted shift toward providing more videos as negotiation and mediation resources. To that end, [email protected] invited Hal Movius, principal and director of Training and Consulting Services at the Consensus Building Institute, to present "Reel Life: Making and Using Films to Teach Negotiation" at the 2010 Spring [email protected] Faculty Dinner.  Hal is a pioneer in developing corporate negotiation video simulations and has created four DVDs to help corporations train staff in negotiation techniques.


Current Trends

The 2009 [email protected] Mediation Pedagogy Conference Participant Survey (reviewed in the 2010 Winter [email protected] E-Newsletter) found that respondents are eager to use new technology and techniques to teach mediation. More than three-quarters of the teachers and trainers interviewed indicated that using video is important to teaching mediation.  The curriculum review described in this issue of the [email protected] E-Newsletter found that more than half of the course outlines we reviewed utilized videos to teach mediation, either by creating video recordings to assess students' mediation strategies or to view video role plays and simulations. 


Hal Movius's Work

While consulting with the Consensus Building Institute for a large media conglomerate, Hal had the opportunity to work with professional video producers.  Hal has scripted and produced powerful instructional DVDs.  The materials are extremely popular with CBI's corporate clients and have provoked some exciting conversations about negotiation and negotiation instruction. 


Recently, Hal produced several more negotiation training videos with corporate partners -- hiring professional crews and actors to portray situations based on interviews with company executives.  Each video is relevant to a particular specific corporate environment (in which new negotiation challenges have arisen) and portrays staff dealing with issues similar to those commonly experienced by the audience.



It is common for participants to do role-play simulations and watch videos in negotiation trainings, but it is rare for videos to resonate with participants by relating specifically to their real-world context.  Hal compared the generalized video learning process to watching someone ride a bike on a track, and then being asked to ride a bike down a mountain trail, using only what you learned from watching the biker on the track.  Context is important in negotiation training, as the skills needed in a given circumstance may be completely different in another situation.


Video as a Teaching Tool

Hal explains:  "As a psychologist by training, I became very interested in how people respond to film.  It provokes a much deeper experience than would talking or reading about a given situation."  Videos convey lessons in a different way than a lecture, discussion, or even role play might convey.  Students who are well read in negotiation theory gain explicit knowledge structures with "correct" and "incorrect" answers to negotiation practices.  Most of the time, these students are able to define theory without fully grasping the subtle nuances required in a realistic context.  Hal noticed that, after reviewing interactions in the videos, trainees reacted to the lessons with more than the common stock "correct" answers, and seemed to react with different implicit theories about negotiation.


Hal structured the videos in four different formats, with each providing a distinct learning opportunity:


-         Queries to the audience: In this format, an actor poses a negotiation problem to the audience, at which point the trainer pauses the tape and asks the viewers to discuss the problem. 

-         Single vignettes: This format includes simulations of negotiation preparation meetings, at-the-table negotiations, coaching, facilitative learning, agency dilemmas, side meetings, and approaches to handling difficult people.  Actors depict various techniques and skill sets in these role plays.

-         Paired vignettes: This structure compares and contrasts behaviors and negotiation styles in situations described above.

-         Multi-scene stories: This video short takes the shape of a realistic negotiation drama that unfolds over time with protagonists and back-table communications, and illustrates common barriers and challenges.


Each of the formats models different negotiation practices - preparation, moves at the table, coalition-building strategies, and other techniques and strategies.  Each provides trainers and teachers with important teaching tools. 


Carefully constructed queries following the viewing of a single vignette can be used to  elicit implicit theories. The trainer can use the "choice point approach" -- pausing the video at any time and forcing students to respond quickly to events on the screen -- to stimulate conversations about negotiation techniques or organizational behavior.  Other simulations are valuable because they model negotiation complexity and provoke emotional responses reminiscent of real negotiations.  Hal clarified, "When you see two people acting in an intense role play with one actor visibly distressed, you, as a viewer, have a physical response to the situation, the same way you do in a real-life experience."  The multi-scene stories give students a better sense of the flow that characterizes real negotiations.  Hal explained, "Modeling the complex behaviors included in effective negotiation-in this case, on the big screen-seems to help the procedural learning of training participants and to spark additional teaching opportunities."


His video simulations provoke new opportunities to think about negotiation moves more clearly, to sharpen strategic judgments, manage feelings before, during, and after a negotiation, and allow implicit ideas, assumptions, and theories to surface.


Insights from the Spring 2010 Faculty Dinner

Hal presented two film clips during his talk.  The first portrayed a multi-scene negotiation story that follows the progress of a negotiator as his agency attempts to "close a deal" and sign an old client to a new contract.  The client has hired a hardball procurement consultant who presents a significant challenge as a negotiating partner.  What ensues is a detailed unfolding of events that is both realistic and engaging, depicting the tasks and skills necessary for a mutual gains negotiator to succeed. 


The second clip demonstrated a paired vignette of two different negotiation approaches to handling a very aggressive counterpart.  The first involved a negotiator struggling to communicate, but in the end failing to make an effective connection.  The second portrayed a negotiator using the mutual gains approach with the same adversary, and showing progress toward resolution. 


The video clips initiated a very stimulating conversation, exploring different ways of using videos as a teaching tool, to the best ways of formatting teaching videos, to the increasing interest in using teaching videos in all kinds of classrooms. 


There was a debate on how best to sequence videos in the classroom.  Hal explained that videos become even more effective when they are paired with a simulation and that there are numerous benefits to showing the video first, as opposed to starting with a role play simulation.  If used first, the video illustrates how to take certain actions - what to do, what not to do - that students can emulate in the role play.  If the teacher starts with the simulation, the video can open up conversation and draw out the students' working theories of negotiation as they compare their actions to those on screen.  There was general agreement that regardless of the order, videos are an effective education tool.


Despite the near universal support for video as an education tool, there is not agreement on how to best use or format videos.  One participant viewed video as a crucial tool for portraying negotiation styles, while another highlighted its potential as an evaluation tool - allowing students to confront their own performances.


There was lively discussion about whether scripted or unscripted videos are more effective.  A script makes production easier and gives the educational producer more control over content and messaging.  But, this requires good actors and polished writing, which are often more expensive.  Moreover, scripted videos sometimes feel unrealistic or stilted.  A non-scripted video is more natural, but the producer needs to use gifted negotiators or mediators as the actors.


In general, there was unanimity on the need for higher-quality negotiation and mediation videos.


The Next Steps

The talk concluded with a look toward the future of videos in negotiation pedagogy.  Larry Susskind hypothesized that the format of negotiation- teaching videos will be almost as important as the content.  He explained that educational videos will increasingly be available for viewing online in various interactive formats, with multiple sets of comments and instructions embedded in the Web platform.  This will create new opportunities to engage a wider circle of learners and teachers.


Hal Movius's negotiation videos sparked a great discussion.  [email protected] looks forward to working closely with Hal as we develop new teaching videos in the years ahead. 


Film Clip

Hal has provided [email protected] readers with a clip from his video, "The Linder Negotiation."  The clip that follows is set in the middle of a multi-scene negotiation story.  The protagonist has just left a difficult negotiation and the clip portrays her boss's attempts to coach her in preparation for the next round of negotiation.  PLEASE NOTE: This video segment will only be available for one month online.  If you would like to use the video for teaching purposes, please contact Hal Movius.    


Watch "The Linder Negotiation"


Hal can be contacted at:

Hal Movius, Ph.D.

Principal, The Consensus Building Institute

[email protected]

[i] "Top Sites,", accessed April 20, 2010.


Mediation Curriculum: Trends and Variations

by Orlee Rabin

[email protected] collected many types of curriculum materials from teachers and trainers who attended the 2009 Mediation Pedagogy Conference.  We received general materials about classes on Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) as well as highly specific and idiosyncratic units like Conflict Resolution through Literature: Romeo and Juliet and a negotiating training package for female managers from the Middle East.


We have grouped the materials into three categories:

-         Course syllabi dealing with conflict resolution or ADR in general: These are broad in scope and review traditional methods like negotiation, mediation, and arbitration.  Most adopt a theoretical orientation.

-         Course Syllabi for mediation in particular: These are more training-oriented and support mediation certification (although many were provided by educational institutions).

-         Notes or outlines dealing with specific mediation exercises: These are often quite specialized. 


Based on our analysis of the materials we received, several themes have been identified that should be of interest to the readership of the [email protected] Newsletter.


Similarities and Variations


Scope: The syllabi highlight the breadth of the mediation field, covering divorce, business, community, human relations, environmental and public policy conflicts, often taking a comparative perspective.  Not only do they deal with micro-skills and mediation techniques, but they also address broader issues of communication, facilitation, and assisted negotiation.


The 40 submissions we received demonstrate that negotiation educators rely on one of three pedagogical approaches: a theoretical analysis of conflict resolution, a skills-based focus on assisted negotiation techniques, or a combination of the two.  Very few syllabi were purely theoretical, which, from our standpoint, reflects the highly applied nature of the field in which we work. 


For obvious reasons, the mediation curricula we saw differ markedly between law schools and non-law schools.  Most law school courses examine mediation through the lens of the judicial structure, highlighting the roles that litigators can play in mediation and focusing on mediation skills and frameworks rather than theoretical constructs.  Non-law courses concentrate on a much broader set of roles that various actors can play in helping to address public, private, and community disputes.  We noticed that courses taught outside the USA tended to compare mediation frameworks across countries, in addition to providing a focus on mediation skills.  Mediation ethics was a focal concern in almost all the curricula, but only a few assessed the limitations of mediation practice or emphasized how to determine whether a dispute should move into mediation.


Certain courses allotted a significant amount of time to preparing students for difficult situations.  One required students to receive concurrent trainings in diversity and domestic violence while another focused on power imbalances and cultural competence, asking students to examine simulations from various gender, race, and cultural perspectives.  Others focused on the psychosocial capacities of mediators, taking a restorative justice perspective and emphasizing transformative mediation theories.


In terms of the scope, the mediation syllabi we received were quite diverse, with the location of the training having a significant impact on the focus of the course.  All curricula aim to provide students with mediation skills in addition to a theoretical understanding of conflict resolution techniques.


Classroom Experience:Teaching mediation and ADR tends to involve a highly participatory approach to education.  Teachers used a wide variety of formats, including lectures, discussions, videos, role-plays, and simulation exercises.  Role plays are the most common teaching tool - reinforcing the survey results from the 2009 [email protected] Mediation Pedagogy Conference (accessible in the 2010 Winter [email protected] E-Newsletter) in which 83% of the respondents viewed role-play as an extremely important teaching method.


Many curricula emphasized learning through professional experiences.  In certain courses, students were required to observe mediations in small claims court and watch experienced mediators in action before they were expected to mediate in class.  Other classes brought in professional mediators to "act out" a simulation. Students were given an opportunity to interrupt and discuss techniques and strategies with visiting professionals.  In yet another course students partnered with professional mediators in court, giving students both professional experience and guidance during their first mediation.  One syllabus promoted the use of "real life as text."  The professor encouraged students to utilize their personal experience in an effort to enhance critical reflection and experiential learning.


To summarize, hands on activities, first-hand experiences, and professional guidance are used to enrich mediation and ADR courses.


Tools: Mediation and conflict resolution courses require learners to devote time to introspection and analyzing the multiple dimensions of social interactions. Almost all the course summaries we received demonstrated a commitment to helping students evaluate their capacity to manage conflict through an understanding of positions and interests, assessing BATNAs, analyzing barriers to agreements and the balance of power, and recognizing different styles of communication.


Additionally, numerous curricula utilized tools to help students assess their personal stylistic or psychological predispositions, including: the Thomas-Killman Conflict Mode Instrument (Thomas & Killman, 1974) the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (Myers, 1995), or the Mediator Classification Index (Riskin, 1994).  These courses also provided a framework for using such knowledge in mediation and negotiation.


We deduced from our review of these syllabi that communication skills and conflict analysis techniques are essential to competent mediation.  Many courses use specific exercises and simulations in addition to psychological assessment tools to prepare students for the challenges they will face as mediators.


Assignments: Assignments were designed to encourage students to develop their conceptual skills and to try their hand at mediation.  Common assignments included research papers on specific topics relating to mediation, graded simulations, mediator memoranda, journal-keeping, and analysis of specific mediations. 


Some teachers relied heavily on video as a teaching tool.  Simulations were videotaped, enabling students to review their own and other students' efforts and get further feedback from the class.  Other professors encouraged students to turn in video assignments or film their debriefing sessions, displaying their capacity to mediate or analyze a mediation.  Citing increased evidence of online platforms in business, one course had a significant technological focus, requiring numerous videotaped simulations and even conducted a mediation through an online meeting program. 


Assessing a student's success in a mediation course is not always an easy task, and subjective evaluation means are generally employed: students are given a variety of opportunities to portray what they have learned, whether through written assignments, hands on simulations, or analysis of other mediation performances.


Literature: The two most common reading assignments were Roger Fisher and William Ury's Getting to Yes (1983) (by far the most popular resource) and Mark Bennett's The Art of Mediation (2005).  Almost every syllabus included readings on ethics in mediation as well as conflict resolution.  Readings ranged from articles on current events, case studies of actual disputes, psychosocial research, negotiation/mediation/conflict resolution theory, legal regulations and guidelines for mediation, as well as many other materials.  Additional readings included articles rooted in traditional social science fields, as well as specialized readings on community dispute resolution, public policy disputes, international conflicts, peer mediation, and other specific subjects. The readings assigned in the courses exemplify the commonalities and variance in the field of mediation.


Two Brief Cases


The course materials we received were prepared by a wide range of professionals in private practices and university programs including law schools, schools of social work, schools of education, and environmental programs.  Most courses reflected the educational objectives of their particular institutions; for example, the Conflict Resolution curriculum from the Florida Atlantic University School of Social Work was quite different from the syllabus for Conflict Management developed by the Centre for Forest Landscape and Planning in the University of Copenhagen. 


The Conflict Resolution curriculum introduced conflict theories and focused on negotiation, mediation, and advocacy as they pertain to social work.  The course used a social justice framework, promoting the idea of the social worker as an advocate for social change who uses conflict resolution skills.  The Conflict Management curriculum was less focused on a formal mediation than on its elemental components including conflict assessment techniques and interpersonal awareness, linking such strategies to public and environmental planning and disputes.  The course was directed to natural resource managers. 


Even with these seemingly different educational objectives and institutional foci, the curricula overlapped in numerous places.  Both syllabi focused on the role and uses of conflict resolution as a social practice.  They examined the personal dynamics and human dimension of conflict as it relates to social and environmental policy, concentrating on communication skills, conflict styles, and the importance of interests.  Both courses alert students to the emotions and values that emerge in conflicts within their professional world, highlighting power imbalances and cultural differences in public disputes.


Thanks to all the conference participants for submitting their teaching materials.

About this Newsletter 

"Teaching Negotiation" is a biannual e-newsletter produced by [email protected] and circulated free of charge to negotiation and dispute resolution educators.  To access prior issues of this e-newsletter, please visit the "Teaching Negotiation" e-newsletter archive.
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Negotiation Journal Welcomes Submissions on Teaching

Negotiation Journal (a quarterly peer-reviewed journal published by the Program on Negotiation with Blackwell Publishing) seeks teaching-related article submissions for its On Teaching section. Submissions on any aspect of teaching negotiation, mediation, or related topics are welcome. Teaching articles are typically 4,000 - 7,000 words in length. While they may be theoretical or practical in nature, they should be analytically rigorous and offer original insights, ideas, and/or research about teaching negotiation effectively. If you are considering submitting an article and are not a regular reader of the Journal, we strongly encourage you to review several recent issues to familiarize yourself generally with our content and style. All authors must also review Negotiation Journal author guidelines before submitting. The guidelines and information on how to submit articles can be found here.
About [email protected]

Negotiation Pedagogy at the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School ([email protected]) is dedicated to improving the way people teach and learn about negotiation. Incorporating and expanding upon the historical mission of the PON Clearinghouse, [email protected] serves as PON's intellectual focal point for negotiation education.

[email protected] is involved a range of activities including research, curriculum development, training, and networking among those interested in negotiation pedagogy. The formal mission of [email protected] is to:
  • Contribute to the growing field of negotiation pedagogy through research and publications;
  • Support both experienced and next-generation negotiation educators through workshops, idea exchanges, and other educator-focused events;
  • Foster connections between communities of negotiation educators and education scholars;
  • Develop and distribute teaching materials that are useful in skills-based negotiation instruction;
  • Explore and test the application of new technologies to improve teaching and learning about negotiation; and
  • Help PON reach new audiences of negotiation practitioners and students through workshops, seminars, and other educational activities.
[email protected] is led by co-directors Larry Susskind and Michael Wheeler.  For more information, please feel free to contact [email protected]