You can’t always get what you want, but effective negotiation will sure help you get you what you need.

On Thursday afternoon, about 150 students streamed into Huntsman Hall to learn negotiation tips from Wharton professor G. Richard Shell and try negotiating with others.

Shell began the workshop by explaining circles of influence, an important concept in the negotiations process, which includes interpersonal influence, persuasion and negotiation itself. He stressed that successful negotiation involves all three factors.

“This is not just something where you learn to cook by the menu,” he said. “This is something you learn by practicing.”

To test their abilities, students were paired randomly and given a negotiation scenario to act out.

Wharton and Engineering freshman Winnie Cheng and Wharton junior Heather Huang met in the forum to put their newly learned skills into practice.

In the mock negotiation, Cheng was a car collector. She wanted to buy a 1975 AMC Pacer car to use its windows for a one-of-a-kind vehicle in her own collection. She made the first offer at $1,500.

But Huang said she cherished the car for sentimental reasons and wanted more for the sale.

“A lot of college students used this car in my family, so this car is a symbol,” she told Cheng. “It was passed from one generation to another generation.”

As a car collector, Cheng said to Huang, she understood Huang’s point of view and raised her offer. She was willing to buy the car for $1,600.

After further questioning, Huang realized that Cheng was willing to spend more than the $1,600 she had offered. Hoping to get lucky, Huang asked for $2,000.

“We could do a little bit lower,” Cheng responded.

“What about $1,900?” Huang countered.


When everybody returned for a debriefing, Shell revealed that the sellers had only been hoping to sell the cars for $500 — disappointing many buyers in the room.

The Wharton Business Law Association planned the workshop in conjunction with Shell and the Wharton Management Club.

According to Wharton Business Law Association President and Wharton junior Lisa Xu, the event was geared towards “students who hadn’t taken the [negotiations] course yet or non-Wharton students.” As a result, a wide variety of students came to develop their negotiation skills.

First-year Wharton MBA student Wei Sun attended the workshop in hopes of seeing what a negotiations course would be like.

“I’m interested in very practical negotiation tactics so I came here,” she said. “I’m very interested in taking a negotiation course next year.”

Wharton sophomore Alex Dinsmoor shared that sentiment.

“I hear the class is a very good one to take and I think that this will be a good sample,” he said.

Though she is not a Wharton student, College sophomore Camilla Brandfield-Harvey was looking to gain some insight into negotiations to benefit her in the future.

“I’m interested in law school and I’ve considered commercial law, so this is attractive to me,” she said.

Xu’s main goal for the workshop was to dispel common misconceptions about the process of negotiation.

“Especially at Penn and at Wharton, people go into negotiations thinking that it’s zero-sum. They approach it super competitively,” she said. “The best negotiators in the world are collaborative ones, so it’s much better to work with them and you’ll find you get a much better result for you and the other party.

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