by Maddy Bowditch, Australia

I arrived at the SAIS Bologna Centre Yesterday at 7:59, albeit bleary eyed, eager to begin our first day of Negotiation Skills Training with Dr. Anthony Wanis-St John. My excitement was only increased when our session began with a short clip on haggling skills from none other than Monty Python (I always knew it was educational). From there we went through different aspects of negotiation, with a demonstration which literally pulled some participants off their feet, to illustrate the common assumption that one side’s gain would be the other side’s loss. Particularly important for me was learning about the concept of the ‘Shadow of the Future’, and the effect that it can have on negotiations, as well as the value of Psychological Reframing.

We were soon given the opportunity to put our new found theoretical knowledge to the test with a cleverly devised simulation, commencing just before lunch. The entire group was given a basic outline of the simulation context before breaking into specific roles, where we were provided with more information on what our stance should be in the upcoming negotiations. Following lunch, it was go-time. I, the youngest of the 2011 class, somehow ended up representing the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), who became the mediator in negotiations – whilst also representing the interests of the silenced NGO groups in the region, and persuading a very uncooperative government to kindly allow us to rebuild ‘Brotherhood Bridge’. Talking about diving into the deep end! Once we got into it, however, the simulation was an amazing experience in practical negotiation. We even cut into our coffee break!

For me, the simulation was the highlight of my day, as I felt I was able to successfully reframe the issue in a way that brought all the negotiators back to the table and enabled us to reach an agreement. I achieved this through the establishment of a ‘Common Need’, which builds on the concept that we learned last week from Dr. William Zartman that parties will not negotiate until they feel that it is in their best interests to do so. I also utilized ‘back channels’, which allow for leaders to talk directly and express views that may not otherwise be possible in a larger group. I feel that I was able to apply the concept of leadership without authority, and achieved a fair amount of success in something that I have had no prior experience in. The Symposium has been such a learning experience for me. I am excited to learn more about negotiation skills from such a brilliant teacher.