As a teacher of negotiation, I work with students to strengthen their interpersonal effectiveness at the table. My classes offer students a number of key skills as well as the opportunity to engage in systematic preparation. Together, we try to frame opening arguments, figure out where to anchor within the zone of possible agreement, and exercise process leadership. We work to manage the pattern of concessions and to recalibrate in the moment. When it comes time to close the deal, we try to do so in a trustworthy manner.

For me, watching students engage every week in deliberate and repeated practice of the skills I teach them in my classes can be both frustrating and exhilarating. The dance of learning often appears to be two steps forward and one step back. My students grapple with the challenge of putting theory, concepts, and frameworks into practice.

Every once in a while, I see a certain smile of mastery on the face of a student. It is the smile that says, “I performed an elegant move at the table. I did so with confidence. And that move ultimately served to create the perfect win-win deal.”

That is the moment when I allow myself the luxury of looking into a future where my students, working as professionals, have unlocked an impasse at the negotiation table. Better still, I entertain the possibility that they have executed a well-crafted strategy and deployed carefully considered tactics in the puzzle that is Middle East peacemaking. I picture them using the skills they practiced in my course to bring adversaries to a new and more hopeful moment.