The Negotiator Magazine

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Dear Bob,

Normally a Masters degree represents the successful completion of a rigorous course of academic study, including the writing of a thesis judged on its academic merit. The practical value of an online Masters degree in negotiation needs to be examined by reviewing the desired objectives of the learning process, rather than the apparent ease of the learning method.

A Masters degree in negotiation can only show that someone has undertaken an academic study of the process; it would not demonstrate an individualís competency as a negotiator.

Successful negotiation is a process that leads to an agreement to which the parties are willingly committed. While negotiation itself can be undertaken utilizing electronic and other media of communication, learning negotiation works best in face-to-face or classroom environments which offer a carefully balanced range of teaching and learning methodologies.

Electronic learning is especially useful in teaching subjects to which there are right or wrong answers. While there are many common sense rules governing how folks should behave when they negotiate, and while most negotiations contain common process elements, each negotiation has unique qualities and has its own peculiar right and wrong answers. Thus to learn negotiation, one needs to learn how to develop and modify strategies and tactics creatively in real time. Learning negotiation requires developing ways of utilizing oneís own behavior in order to influence the processís outcome Ė and the behavior of others.

Online training in negotiation can offer people opportunities to review what they have already learned. However unless one believes in universal rules governing all negotiations, the online learning process limits your opportunities to develop the comprehension derived from the give and take of face-to-face classroom experiences. Since negotiation is all about give and take Ė as regards assets, information, or feelings Ė relying on mechanical means for conveying a set of rules for give and take robs the would-be learner of a chance to test their comprehension in real time activities with other human beings.

Web-based training and other computer-based mechanisms can be excellent supplements to the process of learning negotiation. However, without the actual experience of real-life, real-time negotiation found in a face-to-face setting, one cannot internalize the philosophy, strategies, or tactics that make one a successful negotiator.

Best wishes,

Steve Cohen

Mr. Cohenís article entitled Negotiation as a Paradigm for Business: Ethical Negotiations Lead to Ethical Businesses appeared in the October, 2002 edition of The Negotiator Magazine. A review of his book entitled Negotiating Skills for Managers appeared in the November, 2002 edition of this magazine. You may visit Steve Cohen at his firmís web site at

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