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Do We Really Need to Learn Negotiation as High Schoolers?

Published on November 16, 2020


Do We Really Need to Learn Negotiation as High Schoolers?

Simply put, negotiation is a way for people to settle their differences. That’s it. Something we do almost everyday, in every single moment of our lives.

Imagine a boardroom setting, two men face each other across a long desk, a spotlight on each man, documents lying everywhere. One of them has a pen in his hand, hovering above an important sheet of paper, a tense moment as they make eye contact. And then he quickly jots his signature, they shake hands, smiling people emerge from the shadows, orchestral music kicks in, and the man drives off into the sunset in his convertible car. This is what we think happens in a negotiation.

These kind of images have been jammed down our throats, leading us to believe that most negotiations should be of a high-stakes nature. In reality, most negotiations that we’ll face are going to be the regular, daily ones. So do we really need to learn it as high school students? Or is it just something that will kind of find its way into our heads.

But what is negotiation? Simply put, it’s a way for people to settle their differences. That’s it. Something we do almost everyday, in every single moment of our lives. Say you need to get a cab, you sometimes have to negotiate. If you need to buy something which doesn’t have a fixed price, you negotiate. In India we’ve reduced this activity to the word – ‘haggle’. And thus so many people say, ‘Oh I don’t like to haggle.’

Why is that? Because we have created this visual that haggling and negotiating is about confrontation. It is actually a problem solving session. Say you want to go out for the night with your friends, but the obstacle in front of you is your parents. Now what do we do? We haggle or negotiate. ‘I’ll be home by so and so time..’ ‘I’m going with this one, his driver will be there..’ ‘Yaa I’m old enough to take care of myself..’ We go full hearted in these situations, because the prize seems worth the ‘confrontation’. And you finally come to a negotiated solution where both sides are happy. Of course, that is until you come home after your curfew.

Now that is negotiation or persuasion, which everyone has been doing naturally. But every person you meet will have a different point of view. And you have to deal with them, in one way or the other. Just because you’re in high school doesn’t mean you won’t have to deal with people. Every day is going to be a different challenge. And the way you handle various people, defines your depth of negotiation.

It’s all about learning to listen, and understanding what that person wants and thinks. Because only once you empathise with someone, can you expect them to understand your requirements – what you want. And you build on that relation to find a situation where nobody compromises, and everyone wins. We learn to appreciate others and build partners who help you grow, as they grow. The basis of your future professional life will be the relations you forge with your colleagues.

So what would learning to negotiate early in life, do for you?

 –    It would help you develop your Verbal communication, ‘cause you have to talk your way out of things.

–    Decision making skills will improve, as every single negotiation has to be settled. You learn to take a decision and stick with it.

–    The only way to negotiate is to be Assertive. You have to get your point across without offending the other person. Just visualise arguing with your professor.

–    Listening is the key. We often react without listening, which reduces us in the eyes of others. Negotiating forces us to patiently listen and learn about the person on the other side.

–    We learn to be Objective, ‘cause you have to separate the person from the issue. You aren’t fighting, you’re negotiating to come to a common ground.

–    Life is going to throw sticky situations at you constantly. If we learn how to deal with them early, we’re Prepared for life and nothing can faze us later.

Negotiations are never based on rules, they are based on principles. Every situation that you face will be unique, and you’ll need to adapt. You will need to be strong, but not rigid. Soft, but not a push-over. You will need to understand people and find a way to speak their language. That is negotiating, and that is what you should be prepared for.

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