negotiation strategies

week two of this year’s EBC (english for business correspondence) syllabus, as prepared by yours truly, you guessed it: negotiation skills and strategies.  ok, not really correspondence so much as communication, but i think it’s a good skill to have, particularly in english, for these soon-to-be accountants or businessmen or if we’re lucky entrepreneurs, investing in their own developing economy.  so, typical me class, a little acting demo (to explain vocab like compromise, persuade, plead, check the competition, bluff, walk away, etc.), some enthusiastic role-plays to practice, hey it’s more interesting than business letters. 

between you and me, i don’t really know much about negotiation (i’m sure certain business-minded members of my family would have taken exception to my lesson).  but i’ve found plenty of occasion to experiment with different strategies while here in rwanda, to varying degrees of success, particularly in my dealings with the director.  some examples:

the plea – thursday afternoon, with a student, in the big guy’s office, trying to get the kid promoted from senior five to six even though he missed half of senior five last year due to illness, simply because he can’t pay to repeat a year.  kid was in tears, i caught myself begging, whining almost.  near total failure.  i’m not very good at begging (though the big guy did wave over $100 in school fees from the kid’s debt from last year).

subtle persuasion at first, then finally resorting to throwing my weight around – at the end of term in november, the teachers all had to negotiate which classes we’d be teaching this year.  so in october i began hinting that i wanted to teach lower secondary (lower secondary kids get english five times a week instead of two, which means i can get more done with less prep time).  sneakily slipping it into conversation – ‘you  know english isn’t much of a priority in rwandan upper secondary here – that’s why i want to do lower secondary next year’ or ‘well if juvenal isn’t going to teach senior two next year, i could do it – i like teaching beginners’ – had little effect.  the big guy’s a master of tabling the issue to a later date.  finally, the day i left school for vacation, when it still hadn’t been decided, i wrote a polite note specifying my demands, saying exactly which classes i wanted to teach, left it on his desk and took off.  total success.  he followed my note to the T.  my schedule rocks this year.  however, if i’d been a rwandan teacher, he would have laughed my note off the desk.

appealing to common sense has had it’s wins and losses.  it totally bombed during deliberation last year.  i pulled it off last week though, with the curious incident of the french teacher teaching english.  willy’s a good guy, but something of a wild card in the staff room.  the big guy has almost fired him on numerous occasions, and this time had actually lined up someone else for his job.  willy is congolese and doesn’t speak more than a word or two of english.  yet on the schedule this year, the big guy had him teaching senior one english because the replacement was anglophone.  willy begged, called for reinforcements and had his wife speak on his behalf, big D toppled (or maybe some favors were exchanged but who knows) and willy kept his job but as an english teacher (!).  then i entered the picture, really sir you’re being ridiculous.  willy can’t teach english or perhaps you’d like me to teach kinyarwanda?  i pulled at his heart strings (think of the children), even tried to beat him at his own game by using the african penchant for proverbs (teaching languages is like building a house, without a proper foundation it all falls down).  i knew i was taking a risk, because if i pushed too hard i might get willy fired.  but by focusing on the positive i was able to persuade him that because willy is an outstanding french teacher and charles is a totally acceptable and maybe even good english teacher, he should switch their schedules (charles was teaching french, who knows why), and all would be happy.  done.  score.  i’m a master.

i’d like to end this entry on a colorful note.  the same night i was advocating for willy, amanda also had her negotiating hat on.  all last year she’d lamented the fact that wearing plastic shoes is a sign of poverty here and therefore seriously not cool for a teacher in school (the kids aren’t permitted to wear them either).  she’s got about six pairs of different-colored neon plastic crocks that she wears around the house and in kigali (where people point and giggle at her), but she’s never worn them to school (for fear of being chased?).  after the willy situation had been rectified, conversation turned to her silly shoes.  she said how popular they were back home and lied to say that in canada doctors wore them to work and even teachers wore them to school.  she then used the oh so popular negotiating strategy of making your opponent think the whole thing is his idea.  big D fell for it: ‘you could wear those to school here in rwanda too, you know.’  ‘really?’  ‘sure, no problem.’  let the games begin.

amazingamanda’s incredible array of colorful plastic shoes (this is why we love her so) amazingamanda’s incredible array of colorful plastic shoes (this is why we love her so) amazingamanda’s incredible array of colorful plastic shoes (this is why we love her so)

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~ by aliciawolcott on January 30, 2008.

One Response to “negotiation strategies”

  1. I found your site on technorati and read a few of your other posts. Keep up the good work. I just added your RSS feed to my Google News Reader. Looking forward to reading more from you.

    Peter Quinn

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