Introductory Negotiation Skills

Many colleges and universities around the world offer multiple courses on negotiation for undergraduates, graduate students and post-graduates. It doesn’t matter whether these are offered in professional fields (like business administration, law, public management) or in social science or humanities disciplines (like political science/international relations, sociology/anthropology, economics), the basics of negotiation cover a half dozen key concepts and methods. Building on the seven elements described in Fisher/Ury/Patton’s Getting to Yes and laying out the steps or stages in the mutual gains approach, an introductory course should ground students in the distinction between interest-based negotiation vs. hard bargaining and present a game-theoretic overview to help negotiators understand what offers to make, which to accept, what information or arguments to offer, when and why. We suggest starting with the Parker-Gibson simulation, which puts learners in a two party, single issue negotiating situation. This should be followed by a simulation like Negotiated Development in Redstone which adds a second issue and introduces numerical scorability, so that results in a class can be usefully compared. Once there are two issues to consider, integrative or problem-solving negotiation becomes possible. Sally Soprano and Tendley Contract offer a more open-ended context and give learners a chance to apply more realistically what they have learned from the first two exercises. They can also review how concepts such anchoring, the Zone of Possible Agreement and the importance of relationships come into play. Win-As-Much-As-You-Can increases the number of negotiators, reintroduces a scoring system and shifts from a one-off interaction to a repeated set of negotiations. This is the moment that key ideas from game theory can best be introduced. We suggest ending with MultiMode which puts negotiation in an organizational context and introduces a series of managerial dynamics as well. In six class sessions (of approximately 90 minutes each) learners can build the beginnings of a personal theory of negotiation practice.

Recommended Simulations


Parker-Gibson is a two-party, one-hour, single-issue distributive negotiation between two neighbors regarding the potential sale of a vacant lot. The Parkers and the Gibsons own homes on adjacent plots of land. The homes are separated by a 1/2 lot the Parkers purchased years ago in hopes of building a tennis court, which they never got around to. The Parkers are now moving out of state and are interested in selling the half lot, as the buyer of their home is not interested in it. The Parkers have approached the Gibsons about purchasing the lot. Neither party knows much about the other’s interests. The Parkers and Gibsons are meeting to explore whether a mutually beneficial transaction is possible. Major lessons of this simulation include concepts of “fair prices,” the advantages and disadvantages of making the first offer, and the advantages and disadvantages of truthfully revealing your BATNA.

Negotiated Development in Redstone

Negotiated Development in Redstone, by Lawrence Susskind and John Forester, is a two-party, one-hour, two-issue scoreable negotiation between a developer and a neighborhood association representative regarding the development terms of a new condominium project. The grandchild of the founder of the city of Redstone has proposed building an up-scale condominium project. This has been encouraged by the Redevelopment Authority. Rumor has it that the plans include 120 units, street level commercial businesses, and a parking garage. The City Council is opposed to the project. A Neighborhood Association, including supporters of the “slow-growth” platform on which the Council was elected, is very upset and has articulated its opposition to the plan. In addition, the down-zoning laws in Redstone allow the developer of the proposed project an “as of right” density of only 50 units. However, the developer can negotiate for a higher density by offering to exceed the 10% affordable housing requirement set by the city. The City Council has urged that a representative from the Neighborhood Association and the developer meet to try to reach an accord. If no agreement is reached, the dispute will go to the City Council and the Redevelopment Authority (which are at odds). Major lessons of this simulation include: the importance of pre-negotiation analysis and BATNA, distributive vs. integrative bargaining, and joint gains.

Sally Soprano I

Sally Soprano, by Norbert Jacker and Mark Gordon, is a two-party, one-hour, integrative negotiation between agents for an opera singer and an opera house regarding a possible contract for an upcoming production. Sally is a distinguished soprano who is now somewhat past her prime. She has not had a lead role in two years but would like to revive her career. The Lyric Opera has a production scheduled to open in three weeks, but its lead soprano has become unavailable. Lyric’s representative has requested a meeting with Sally’s agent to discuss the possibility of hiring Sally for the production. Major lessons of this simulation include knowing one’s own BATNA, developing and using objective criteria, and joint gains.

Tendley Contract

Tendley Contract is a two-party, one-hour, integrative contract negotiation between a computer consultant and a school district representative at an apparent impasse over different expectations over the cost of services. A school district and a computer consultant are negotiating a potential contract for repair of the school district’s failed computer network. Both parties are eager to work with each other: the consultant’s qualifications appear perfect for the school district’s needs, and the school district would help the consultant connect with additional governmental clients. After a fair amount of negotiation, however, the parties find themselves at an impasse: the consultant’s bid is considerably higher than the school’s budget for this project. The consultant and a school representative have agreed to meet one last time in an effort to salvage the deal. Major lessons of this simulation include comparing interest-based negotiation and positional bargaining, joint problem-solving, and creative option generation. Major lessons include interest-based negotiation vs. positional bargaining, creative option generation, and joint problem solving.


Win As Much As You Can is a four-person, one-hour, prisoner’s dilemma game, played in ten quick rounds. This classic game is often used in other settings, notably in teaching team-building and small group behavior. In negotiation, it is an excellent vehicle for examining the connections between self-interest and group well-being. It also nicely illustrates fundamental differences between one-time encounters and negotiations in which the parties have ongoing relationships. Major lessons include competition vs. cooperation, group process, and joint gains.


Multimode, Inc., by Lawrence Susskind, is a two-party, one-hour, intra-organization negotiation between a company’s financial and human resources officers regarding the amount of a budget increase. T. Boyd, a Vice President of Budget and Finance at Multimode, Inc., (a manufacturing firm) is about to meet J. Arnold, a Vice President of the Human Resource Development Office at Multimode. T. Boyd has formally met with other departments to discuss the upcoming year’s budget as well as expected productivity increases. The maximum allowable budget increase has been set at 5%. In order to implement a new reorganization plan, J. Arnold is requesting an 8% increase. Major lessons of this simulation include communication, use of objective criteria, and reservation price.

Recommended Books

Roger Fisher, William Ury, and Bruce Patton, Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In, Penguin Books, 1991.

Howard Raiffa, The Art and Science of Negotiation, Harvard University Press, 1982.