"Education is growth... Education is not a preparation for life; education is life itself." John Dewey
Negotiations skills are used by people who wrestle with life's everyday challenges and hurdles throughout their personal and professional growth. The learning process commences in early childhood when children vie for the toys they want to play with in the sandbox. As children mature and interact more deeply with their peers, they've already been ingrained with lessons learned from these early successes and failures. The core of children's personalities and the negotiating style they learn is already deeply embedded within their psyche. Unfortunately, we don't always learn wisely. More recently, educators are tuning in to the benefits of teaching negotiations skills to children in the classroom. This is an excellent opportunity for children to learn good habits that will benefit their later careers.
Building a Positive Negotiation Framework in the Classroom
A trend is starting to develop where more and more educators have foreseen the value of teaching mediation and negotiations skills to children as a means to develop their interpersonal skills. The extensive media coverage concerning incidents of violence in schools, bullying, and racism has necessitated that educators take a more proactive approach in dealing with social conflict in our education system. As a consequence, many schools are adopting various mediation and negotiations skills programs to aid children and teenagers in learning how to respond more positively and productively to these social issues.
There are three primary areas that educators are beginning to focus on to develop positive mediation and negotiations skills. They include:
Creating an atmosphere of cooperation
Dealing with conflict
Dealing with a multicultural reality
Creating an Atmosphere of Cooperation
There are a variety of approaches that are being implemented in schools through various programs. Some of these programs focus on one or more of the following approaches:
Problem Solving Through Negotiation
Students learn the basics of negotiations skills by learning to understand the differences between distributive negotiation and integrative negotiation, or learning the benefits of cooperation rather than being self-centered. By focusing on how much more value can be obtained through integrative negotiations skills, students learn how to develop a more cooperative attitude in solving their problems. Successful outcomes include:
Stating their desires.
Describing their interests by explaining their feelings and how the problem is affecting them.
Outlining the reasons behind these feelings.
Learning to see the problem from the other person's viewpoint, by exploring the other person's feelings and desires.
Learning how to invent a resolution that addresses both of their viewpoints.
Some educational institutions are even taking this one step further by providing some introductory but very detailed courses on both mediation and negotiations skills for students to enhance their skills. Many of these courses are offered by negotiations skills consultant firms who primarily concentrate on themes that are most applicable to young people. These courses enable the students to facilitate a more productive dialogue with their parents, siblings, and their peers.
The New Multicultural Reality
In the past several decades, our world has seen a vast movement of displaced people and refugees from developing countries that continue to alter the cultural dynamics of the wealthier, more developed countries. Additionally, cheap travel and multi-national companies have resulted in many more people living and working in foreign countries. The influx of different cultures and shifts in religious focus has brought forth elements of racism not previously evident in the receiving countries. This clash of cultures has resulted in a considerable rise in racial and religious intolerance. Many schools have found it necessary to introduce programs to teach students intercultural awareness and understanding to integrate the different cultures. This is an attempt to break apart the stereotypical perceptions that some students have developed due to their lack of understanding, in many cases caused by government propaganda programs. By using a variety of means to get students to work and interact with each other, through group interaction and by encouraging newcomers to discuss their cultural perspectives, many students can gain a better understanding of the world. In this way students are learning to develop tolerance towards and understanding of cultural differences.
Although the application of mediation, negotiations skills and cultural diversity in our school system is gradually being implemented, there is one big hurdle to overcome. Many educational institutions are faced with the additional pressures of trying to fit such programs into their curriculum and find they are unable or unwilling to do so. This inability or lack of priority is regrettable, as teaching these skills at an earlier age has been proven to help foster the development of young people into more productive adults when they enter the workplace and greater society.