WPNP hosts workshop to develop key negotiation skills

By Brandon O’Connor Assistant Editor

April 18th, 2019 | In Focus, News
  The West Point Negotiation Project workshop teaches negotiation skills based around relationship building and finding solutions, but participants also learn hard bargaining skills for scenarios when the other party is not willing to work toward a compromise.  Photos by Class of 2019 Cadet Samantha Price
 The West Point Negotiation Project hosted its 10th annual workshop April 10-11 bringing together 100 future military leaders.

Whether it is working to find solutions to problems within a team or finding common ground with an adversary, the ability to negotiate is a key part of being a leader.
Leadership requires those in power to do more than simply exert the power of their rank and position to get their way. They must build relationships, find compromises and work with people of varying backgrounds to accomplish the mission before them.
As they prepare to begin their careers as military leaders, cadets and midshipmen from 15 service academies and ROTC programs on the east coast worked to develop key negotiation skills to help them be better leaders during the West Point Negotiation Project’s 10th annual workshop April 10-11.
The two-day workshop brought together 100 future military leaders.
The attendees spent the two days learning the skills of an effective negotiator and participating in multiple mock negotiations based on real-world scenarios.
“We learned a lot about looking at your interests and other’s interests instead of positions,” Class of 2020 Cadet Vienna Morrison said. “That is one of the main themes of the workshop, to really come at it from more of a collaborative approach as opposed to what we call positional bargaining where you start and argue until you get to a middle ground. One of the most important things is establishing a relationship for the future.”
The workshop taught participants how to prepare for a negotiation, skills to use during the negotiation and how to change perceptions and gain influence without relying on force or rank.
“I think negotiation is a leader competency and all of these participants are going to be lieutenants upon graduation and commission,” Maj. Marcus Millen, director of the West Point Negotiation Project, said. “Being able to not only extend your influence beyond using your rank but being able to work with other people and come up with a solution that helps everybody involved is key.”
Millen said participants typically say the workshop was one of the best experiences of their cadet careers because the skills learned are immediately applicable to both their military careers and day-to-day lives.
During the workshop, the cadets took part in negotiations where they took opposite sides of an issue and had to work to find a mutually beneficial solution.
In one scenario, a participant played the role of an Afghan gas station owner working to find a compromise with an American platoon leader, played by another participant, over the loss of business caused by American forces closing a road.
The workshop teaches negotiation skills based around relationship building and finding solutions, but participants also learn hard bargaining skills for scenarios when the other party is not willing to work toward a compromise.
“We have learned a lot of tools to assist in everyday negotiating which will be pretty important with different policy decisions and things like that in the future,” U.S. Coast Guard Academy First Class Cadet Drew Connelly said. “I think the biggest thing is when you are negotiating, slowing down, taking everything in and not making knee jerk decisions and concessions and stepping in the other person’s shoes and seeing from their perspective.”
During this year’s workshop, Class of 2019 Cadet Elizabeth Rodriguez was awarded the inaugural Capt. Drew Ross Memorial Award. The award will be presented annually to a First Class Cadet for his or her performance in the negotiation for leaders course at West Point and contributions to the workshop.
Drew Ross was a member of USMA Class of 2011 and participated in the conference while a cadet. He was killed on Nov. 27, 2018 while serving in Operation Freedom Sentinel in Afghanistan.