I have always been taught that one of the cornerstones of successful negotiation is cordiality. When you have an idea in mind and you want others to support and help cultivate this idea, one of the best ways to assure positive results is to be as friendly as possible. A friendly individual does not think that she has all of the answers; a friendly individual realizes that second, third, and fourth opinions are beneficial in helping her idea to be the best that it possibly can be. While I tend to agree that cordiality helps to breed positive negotiation sessions, I have learned through my experiences in the Clinic so far that you sometimes have to be uncharacteristically aggressive in order for others to take your ideas and opinions seriously.
My partner and I have an idea that we want to build from the ground up, and in our quest to transform this idea into a reality, we must collaborate with individuals who, in many ways, are our seniors. When I say “senior,” I’m not referring to age; my partner and I are law students in a setting where we are acting as lawyers, and in trying to bring our idea to fruition, we are in constant contact with individuals who are long out of school and have much more experience in the educational realm than we do. With such a dichotomy in place, it becomes very difficult for my partner and I to see ourselves as “colleagues” or “equals” to our fellow counterparts; we feel as if we should address these individuals as “Mr.” and “Ms.” instead of addressing them on a first-name basis (despite our increasing contact with them). As such, my partner and I feel that in order for our ideas to be taken seriously (and to not be deemed inferior to those of our more experienced counterparts), we must (sometimes) act more aggressively than we would like to in order for our voices to be heard during the negotiation process. This aggression has manifested itself during our group meetings.
My partner and I have met with our designated group twice this semester, and in both of these meetings, we have needed to establish that WE are in control of the meeting. My partner and I have organized these meetings in order to 1) propose our idea to the group and to 2) receive positive feedback (constructive criticism) on how to improve this idea and make this collaborative effort a successful one. While my partner and I have remained friendly during these conversations, there have been times when other members of the group have attempted to substantially alter or outright reject our idea because, in their minds, we did not have the expertise to understand what it was that we were proposing (insinuating that because they had more experience in a particular area that we did, their ideas were automatically superior to ours). These instances have reinforced the dichotomy that my partner and I have always felt existed during our meetings, and as such, we have had to aggressively fight to keep our ideas alive. For instance, we have had to talk over some of our counterparts when they have tried to dismiss our ideas; we have had to abruptly shift the conversation when a counterpart has started speaking on unrelated issues; we have had to repeatedly emphasize that this project, though a collaborative one, is still OUR project. All in all, my partner and I agree that we, as law students, have had to be particularly “hands on” in promoting our ideas to our more experienced counterparts; we believe in cordial negotiation, but we also believe that we must act aggressively to emphasize that we are in control of this project, despite our lack of expertise and experience in certain areas. As the title to this blog entry states, any student with two hands-symbolizing our “hands on” approach in promoting our ideas-has a fighting chance to achieve results-a final product that holds true to our objectives and we are satisfied with. I find this realization to be a great learning experience, and I am thankful that I have been able to learn such lessons throughout the course of my clinical experience.