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The Big 13 – Negotiating & Influencing

The skill to effectively influence others is one that everyone needs.

People spend a lot of time and effort trying to persuade each other to do what they want, whether in personal or professional situations. But negotiation, influencing and persuading are skills that can only be developed given the circumstances and opportunities to do so. Effective negotiation requires a high level of communication, the ability to build rapport and persuade rationally, and the confidence to deal with ‘difficult’ situations that could be a block to success.

Negotiating and influencing also encompasses the ability to listen and compromise. It includes the ability to be turned down, knocked back, but to still participate. An effective way of offering an opportunity to develop these skills in primary schools is by providing a structure for influencing to take place, and structure which provides an opportunity for children to plan future negotiations and develop the skills they will need in later life.

Case Study: Broom Valley Juniors School Council

Broom Valley Junior’s school council was formed three years ago to encourage a greater level of participation in and responsibility for school life. Each class votes for two representatives to go forward to represent their views on the council, which meets weekly to highlight and discuss issues that are important to the children.

The council has carried out market research in school to discover how children wanted funding to develop the outside play area to be spent. Ideas from the children including a netted football area, an outdoor dance stage and ‘loan cards’; to encourage responsible use of equipment were all adopted.

Most recently the school council were even involved in the selection process for a new member of staff. Two representatives were voted onto the interview panel to participate in the process – and even asked a couple of questions. The philosophy is that the more responsibility the pupils have the greater responsibility they will display.

Learning Mentor and council member Wendy Rusling said:

“The way the students conducted themselves and the insightful comments they made showed it was the right decision to include them in the process.”

The successful candidate also happened to be the first choice of the children too. Apart from having the right skills and experience, Wendy said the candidate had made eye contact with the pupils and treated the children in the same way as other members of the interview panel. When the children found out ‘their’ teacher was being appointed there was a far greater sense this was someone they welcomed than another ‘stranger’ being thrust upon them.

Wendy said the benefit of the school council was to show children the processes of effective negotiation they will need in later life. She said:

“They don’t always get their own way. But they are learning to deal with conflict in a positive way and they seem to take it better when a class member tells them ‘This is how it is.’ It doesn’t stop them trying to change things though; it just gives them a proper framework where they can do it in a constructive way.”