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How to Advocate for a Gifted Child as a Negotiator

Gifted Education and Support

A Better Approach to Negotiating for Gifted Children: Principled Negotiating

This document takes a look at principled negotiating, a strategy discussed in the book “Getting to Yes: Negotiating Without Giving In.” By analyzing this strategy one will see it draws many parallels to gifted advocacy. These parallels can be used to make one feel confident and comfortable in the role of a gifted advocate.
For additional information, consider watching Negotiation Principles: GETTING TO YES by Roger Fisher and William Ury

Definition of “Principled Negotiating”

Principled negotiation can be defined by two key components:

  1. Looking for “mutual gains” whenever possible
  2. Being “hard on the merits” and “soft on the people” (Fisher, Ury, & Patton, 1991, p. xviii).

Using these components will help you produce an agreement that meets multiple participants’ interests, resolve conflicting interests fairly, and allows for a working relationship moving forward. (Fisher, Ury, & Patton, 1991, p. 4).

What is a must for Principled Negotiating to Work?

Flexibility. More often than not when someone is negotiating they don’t look for mutual gains because they are too focused on their own position. When this happens less time is dedicated to meeting the concerns of the parties involved and there is a chance the meeting could turn personal. This is where flexibility comes in. Keep an open mind and look at all of the possibilities that exist. Meeting whatever concerns that are on the table allows for mutual gains and progress to be made (Fisher, Ury, & Patton, 1991 p. 5).

Steps to Accomplish Principled Negotiating

  1. “Separate the people from the problem.”
  2. “Focus on interests, not positions.”
  3. “Generate a variety of possibilities before deciding what to do.”
  4.  “Insist that the result be based on some objective standard.”

(Fisher, Ury, & Patton, 1991 pgs. 10, 11)

The Negotiation/Meeting

Try not to frame the negotiation or meeting as a “contest of will” (Fisher, Ury, & Patton, 1991 p. 20). Instead use “accurate perceptions, clear communication, appropriate emotions and a forward-looking, purposive outlook” (Fisher, Ury, & Patton, 1991 p. 21). “Where perceptions are inaccurate, you can look for ways to educate… Where misunderstanding exists, you can work to improve communication” (Fisher, Ury, & Patton, 1991 p. 21).

During the meeting it is important to keep in mind three things:

  1. Perception

    To effectively solve a problem or receive an accommodation it is important for one to put themselves in the other parties’ shoes. “It is not enough to study them like beetles under a microscope; you need to know what it feels like to be a beetle. To accomplish this task you should be prepared to withhold judgment for a while as you ‘try on’ their views. ” (Fisher, Ury, & Patton, 1991 p. 23). This will help to understand where the other side is coming from and not place blame on anyone. “But even if blaming is justified, it is usually counterproductive. Under attack the other side will become defensive and will resist what you have to say” (Fisher, Ury, & Patton, 1991 p. 25).

  2. Emotions

    “First recognize and understand emotions, theirs and yours” (Fisher, Ury, & Patton, 1991 p. 29). There might be certain topics where educators or administrators are particularly sensitive. This is often the case when parents use the word “bored” to describe their child’s experience in a particular class. Sensitive topics should be avoided as best as possible. There could also be areas where a school staff is very proud. This could be from a certain accommodation they provide that they have had success with. With this being said, it’s best to leave your emotions at the front door of the school. It is understandable if you feel the need to vent, but try to do so in the privacy of your home.

  3. Communication

    Without communication there is no advocacy. Good communication can be difficult to establish. Couples who have been together for 30 years still have misunderstandings. This is why it’s not hard to see why then people who have never met may feel hostile or wary toward one another. Be cautious about being preoccupied with your next thought; being in the present moment builds rapport and shows that their comments are important to you. This comes back to being flexible. By listening closely you can ask the other party to spell out exactly for you what they mean, which is very important because often communication is broken down by misunderstandings (Fisher, Ury, & Patton, 1991 pgs. 32, 33 34).

Understanding Doesn’t Mean Agreeing
You want to remember that when you speak you are doing so to be understood not debate. Think of you and the other party as two court justices trying to work out a joint opinion. Try to speak about yourself and not them. In the end, you want to separate the substantive problem from the relationship to build a working relationship (Fisher, Ury, & Patton, 1991 pgs. 35, 36, 37).

Reconcile Interests
For every interest there usually exist several options to fulfill it. This is why one must reconcile interests rather than positions (Fisher, Ury, & Patton, 1991 p. 42). This is a collaborative approach, since you are willing to hear and discuss their interests. For this reason they owe it to you to listen and discuss yours. “As long as you do not seem to imply that the other side’s interests are unimportant or illegitimate, you can afford to take a strong stance in setting forth the seriousness of your concerns” (Fisher, Ury, & Patton, 1991 p. 51). This can be a fine line because you don’t want the other party to feel under attack, but rather that your interest deserves attention (Fisher, Ury, & Patton, 1991 p. 51).

How to Create Options

  1. “Separate the act of inventing options from the act of judging them.”
  2. “Broaden or the options on the table rather than look for a single answer.”
  3. “Search for mutual gains.”
  4. “Invent ways of making their decisions easy.” (Fisher, Ury, & Patton, 1991 p. 60)

Brainstorm with the other side, which will lead to joint problem solving. Remember, options invite other options. Positions do not. (Fisher, Ury, & Patton, 1991 pgs. 63, 65).

What if Administrators Won’t Budge?
Sometimes gifted advocates will run into situations where the school they are working with simply will not budge. In cases where all of the leverage lies on the other side it might be helpful to develop a BATNA (Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement) (Fisher, Ury, & Patton, 1991 p. 97).

A BATNA aims to provide one with two important objectives. It first is to “protect you from making an agreement you should reject” (Fisher, Ury, & Patton, 1991 p. 97). Second, it will “help you make the most out of assets you do have so that any agreement you reach will satisfy your interests as well as possible”( Fisher, Ury, & Patton, 1991 p. 97).

How to develop a BATNA
Coming up with a strong BATNA can be done by following three steps:

  1. Invent “a list of actions you might conceivably take if no agreement is reached.”
  2. Try to improve “some of the more promising ideas and converting them into practical alternatives.”
  3. If possible “select, tentatively, the one alternative that seems the best” (Fisher, Ury, & Patton, 1991 p. 103)

In the above information there probably isn’t much that you didn’t already know or have experience with. The authors of “Getting to Yes” Roger Fisher and William Ury point this out in the conclusion of their book. They said their goal was to organize common sense into a practical structure that could be acted out or used as a starting point. Fisher and Ury also note that a book and it’s information can point you in the right direction, but best thing to do when negotiating, or advocating in this case, is to learn from doing.

Work Cited
Fisher, R., Ury, W., & Patton B. (1991). Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In, 2nd ed. New York, NY: Penguin Books


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