Recently I had the great privilege of participating in CEDR’s Certificate in Advanced Negotiation (CAN). The room was filled with twelve participants and two facilitators, both of whom had awe inspiring bios and who would have been at ease both negotiating their young child full of sugar to sleep and closing a high end corporate deal. Each day was different and even the finer details were not left ignored, to an extent that the seating arrangement in the room was altered and set in a more personal learning experience for each module.

The reasoning behind the title for this piece is the realization that any negotiation is like a dance. For example, two parties might have separate agendas but share many common grounds, which may not be apparent at the beginning through the haze of aggression, fear and pride. They may both want a positive outcome from the dialogue, but most importantly (to each individual) they do not want to give the shirt off their back. My reference to a dance is due to the fact that there is a perpetual motion from both sides – one cannot exist without the motion of another. I cannot attest to this personally due to my two left feet, but in any negotiation both parties need each other in order to arrive at a fulfilling outcome.

I received my pre-course reading, which were a wakeup call to the intricacy of negotiations. Considering that one of the facilitators, Tracy Fox, is a psychologist by training (with experience in neurobiological rehabilitation) the other facilitator is, Ranse Howell, is the Head of the Leadership and Negation Academy with one of the worlds leading dispute resolution organizations, I knew I was in for an engrossing course.

I was very curious to hear the neuroscience aspect that Tracey would bring to the course and I was not disappointed.  Before the CAN commenced I had the notion that I had no knowledge of neuroscience, but was surprised to learn that I actually would have considered many aspect of the area to be present in my current negotiation style. Subsequent to the course I am now able to develop these skills and reinforce my own negotiation style to my advantage because of my newfound awareness.

The detail in the course materials was outstanding. From the simplicity of building rapport to the importance of the clothes worn, the depth of knowledge that was at our disposal was apparent. The modules displayed the complexity of a negotiation and showed us how to adapt to the most difficult situations with ease. In particular, emotional factors play a larger role in negotiation than I had originally thought. One is led to believe that emotions are left at the door during a negotiation. However on the contrary, they are right in the middle of the discussion juxtaposed with personal grievances, which can negatively shape the process.

There are several areas where I greatly benefited from my training in the Certificate of Advanced Negotiation, but as a group we agreed that the structure of the course was exceptional. It was not simply a six day course with the information shown on a white board or slides projected on a wall. The active learning approach was utilized and each delegate participated fully. Even the flipchart, traditionally written on only by facilitators, was in fact used mostly by us participants. There were no slides and the contents in the pre-course materials were of a very high level, which in turn stimulated the conversations throughout.  It was a professional training like no other. No stone was left unturned due to the time left between modules to allow us to reflect and explore the information that we were given. When we returned after breaks we were questioned on our thoughts from our previous modules. The relaxed, professional and interesting teachings made the course compelling. The Certificate in Advanced Negotiation was thought provoking and beneficial to my professional training but, alas, I still cannot dance.

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By Clement McInerney

Clement McInerney is a Practice Manager with CEDR Ireland. The Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution (CEDR) is an independent, non-profit organisation with a mission to cut the cost of conflict and create choice and capability in dispute prevention and resolution. www.cedr.com