Monday, March 30, 2009


This post is about the Potworowski and Kopelman article, Strategic Display and Response to Emotions: Developing Evidence-based Negotiation Expertise in Emotion Management (NEEM). I try to tie the article to the Cochran reading for this week and to identify some lessons that will be helpful in the Fourth of July exercise.

Awareness of emotions is useful for negotiators because, the authors say, "emotions in negotiations convey information... and can strategically influence behavior" (337). The truth of this claim seemed reasonably clear to me when I was planning our course and I adopted, in part, one of the authors' suggestions about teaching NEEM, namely the use of video clips and questions about the emotional state of the negotiators. Thinking back to The Deal and the subsequent quiz, you may recall my focus on emotions and how the actors conveyed them.

For a while I considered the authors' suggestion about having the class role-play the next step in the negotiation process (343) but, you will be relieved to know, decided against it. Asking half the class to play the role of Tony Blair and the other half to channel Gordon Brown seemed just too weird. So in place of The Deal, Part II, we have the Fourth of July exercise.

But wait, you are thinking, isn't the Fourth of July an interviewing-and-counseling exercise as opposed to an exercise in negotiating? Well, yes. But I believe that there is significant overlap in the skills that will make you effective collaborative counselors and those that will help make you strong dispute resolution advocates. Both involve acting, for example, and the strategic behavioral display of emotion.

What do I mean by that? Let's look at Chapter 8 of Cochran, in particular section 8-5 where Cochran and his co-authors discuss the process of counseling the client toward a decision. In 8-5 (a) (3) they write that part of the job is to "provide a comfortable physical and emotional environment" and that this involves "[p]rojecting empathy, acceptance and genuineness." Projecting emotions demands a good idea of what they look like -- literally -- and how others respond to them.

In the Fourth of July exercise, the adjunct instructors playing the role of your clients will display emotions. That is the essence of playing a role. It is no affront to their theatrical skills to say that they will be engaged in what Potworowski and Kopelman refer to as "surface acting," by which I mean that they will only be pretending to be sullen/ecstatic/apoplectic and so on. They will be watching you, of course, and I hope that you will be watching them too, observing and learning from them.

During the exercise, please think about how the adjunct faculty use their faces, voices, and body language to convey emotions, and about how those emotions (albeit feigned) adapt in response to your words and actions. The idea at the core of the NEEM article is the notion that recognizing emotions in others, modulating our responses, and fashioning our own displays of emotion are skills that we can learn. In reading your memoranda about the exercise I will be looking for reflective comments on this point, among other things.

Finally, a word about the acronym "NEEM." It reminds me of a Monty Python sketch. For British-born men of a certain age, everything reminds us of a Monty Python sketch. Last semester I incorporated several Monty Python scenes into my course (how else can you teach Legal Writing?) and met with mixed responses. Some students loved it; others did not. Accordingly, I do not force you to watch anything overtly Pythonesque in class and, instead, merely make available to you -- for viewing at your leisure -- such Monty Python sketches as I deem pedagogically necessary and proper.

For the Knights Who Say Nee scene from that cinematic extraveganza Monty Python and the Holy Grail click here.

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