Negotiation is an essential part of reaching a peaceful conflict resolution. In their 2020 Future of Jobs Report, the World Economic Forum listed negotiation as the top nine skill employers are looking for.
Negotiation is therefore an important skill for law students to develop, regardless of whether you seek a legal or non-legal career after your studies. Becoming a better negotiator will improve your ability to cooperate, innovate, keep an open mind and evaluate both sides of a conflict.
Joining a debating society will allow students to develop their persuasion skills and the ability to think and respond on their feet. These skills are vital in a negotiation scenario. During both a debate and a negotiation, the parties involved will be required to listen to the other party to respond appropriately and persuasively.
Debating allows you to practice your public speaking skills as you may have the opportunity to debate in front of a larger audience. After this, negotiating in a room with a handful of people will not seem so frightening.
Also, debating requires you to gather all relevant facts of the issue in question to argue your position. This preparation stage is also vital before a negotiation. Gathering all relevant information will help avoid further conflict during the meeting. It will also help you put forward your case in the best way you can.
Joining a model UN society is a great way to improve your communication and negotiation skills. Here, you take part in conferences where you get to debate global issues and conflicts with other people.
The point of Model UN is to negotiate solutions to global issues until one is passed or adopted by the committee. As such you learn to negotiate in both small and large groups, and in both a closed meeting of a group of persons and lobbying sessions.
You also have to listen to others’ perspectives during those meetings and sessions and attempt to resolve their issues. This will help you during negotiation as it requires skills such as good questioning, listening and clarifying. It is important that there are no misunderstandings in negotiations as this causes problems and creates barriers between a beneficial outcome.
While joining the law society at your university is not exactly a specific activity, it will give you access to a range of activities which will improve your negotiation skills. Every law society is a bit different, but most of them hold various workshops and competitions in negotiation itself.
Other activities that are regularly conducted by law societies and are relevant to negotiation is mediation and mooting. Mediation is normally a more informal method of dispute resolution than negotiation is, but many of its tactics are relevant to negotiation.
For instance, mediators aim to facilitate a discussion between two opposing parties and help them resolve the conflict. Similarly, negotiators have to try to find a resolution that works for both parties as they will rarely be able to cut a deal that is only beneficial to their side.
Mooting imitates a court hearing wherein participants have to analyse a problem and anticipate what the opposing party will argue to prepare a response. Becoming better at doing this will help you in a negotiation as it prepares you for viewing an issue from several sides and predict what the other negotiator will argue. Going through this process is vital to help you understand which cards the opposing party holds, and which ones you hold.
At some point, every student will have to negotiate – whether it is financially or professionally. Uni is a great time to improve your ability to do so as you have the opportunity to join several relevant activities and to practice negotiating in a less stressful environment.
Improving your negotiation skills will boost your confidence and enhance your ability to develop good relationships, and therefore ultimately help you succeed both at uni and during your career. Give some of these activities a try – you might discover that you really enjoy it too!
Words by: Kristin Klungtveit
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