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Teaching Negotiation through Paradox


Laurence de Carlo is a professor at ESSEC Business School, Cergy-Pontoise, France. Her e-mail address is


How to teach negotiation cannot be effectively summed up in a few ready-to-be-applied principles. In this article, I define a paradoxical professorial stance that I believe can be useful for helping students learn negotiation concepts and methods, and will also help them reflect on their own practice. The paradoxes are the following: caring for the students while deliberately exposing them to frustration; nurturing a lively, interactive course while respecting those students who prefer to remain silent; helping the students to be more autonomous while simultaneously manipulating them; accepting their vulnerability while nurturing their creativity; and finally, maintaining both professorial distance and closeness. My adoption of such a paradoxical stance as a professor has encouraged greater creativity in my students, and by the end of the course, they are better able to create value in a negotiation simulation.