The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences

RLF Recap: Letting Others Have It Your Way: The Art and Science of Negotiation

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The 2013 RLF Retreat set a high bar for the excellence of the RLF program, marking the 13th year of Professor Brian Mandell’s unrelenting dedication to sharing his wisdom with us fellows. Even compared to the successes of past years, this year’s retreat was particularly insightful and inspiring. The first day underwent a few changes, emphasizing Mandell’s “Breakthrough Communication” exercise in place of other public speaking activities. As a result, the fellows were able to receive individualized feedback from the group and from Professor Mandell on their communication skills. Concepts that continued to come up were using intergenerational language, weaving in relevant anecdotes, and avoiding fillers, trailing tone, and conditional phrases like “to be frank.” The fellows spoke about their understandings of productive work, rewards, commitment, and future career goals. Day 1 also included a discussion about the millennial generation and an evening talent show.

The second day of the retreat was focused on developing negotiation techniques. Our first activity dealt with resolving workplace conflicts. The scenario, “Paula’s Problem,” taught us to be aware of how sequencing, both in what we say and who we talk to as it impacts how people perceive us. We were guided through the key mental steps of focusing on the question being asked, identifying underlying factors influencing the situation, and defining logical criteria for our choices and proposals. Then, the fellows participated in two highly-realistic negotiation scenarios, one involving hiring consultants for restructuring a school district’s electronic information system (Tenley Contract) and the other involving a 6-party, 5-issue negotiation for an off-shore industrial port (Seeport Contract). From these team-oriented learning experiences, we not only became more familiar with each other but also realized our strengths, weaknesses, and oversights in setting out to accomplish a goal. The skills we built during the retreat will supplement everything else we do through the year as Rockefeller Leadership Fellows and as we look for employment.

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