War or Diplomacy: Decision-Making Strategies & Negotiating Skills For Optimal Outcomes


Meets once a week for 4 weeks
4 – 9 learners, ages 13-18

This course offers practical skills for the most challenging conflicts — when you are facing an adversary you don’t trust, who may harm you, or who you may even feel is evil. Learners will be guided on how to make wise decisions about whether to negotiate or fight.

This class teaches learners what it means to make a “wise decision” and identify the emotional and strategic traps to avoid in negotiations. Drawing from a range of real-life conflicts where lives and liberty were at stake, this course offers guidance in disputes of all sorts where the temptation is to demonize the other side.



The art of diplomacy is vital if we are to get better at managing our relationships, our friendships, and our working lives. None of us are born knowing how to be diplomatic, but the skill can be learned – and should be widely practiced to make life more gracious and efficient.

Diplomacy is the art of creating and managing relationships among countries and the art of negotiation is that of forging relationships through agreements. As such, it offers valuable tools for all people who themselves are in the business of creating and managing relationships.

Diplomacy evolved initially to deal with problems in the relationships between countries. The leaders of neighboring states might be touchy on points of personal pride and quickly roused to anger; if they met head-on, they might be liable to infuriate each other and start a disastrous war. Instead, they learned to send emissaries, people who could state things in less inflammatory ways, who wouldn’t take the issues so personally, who could be more patient and emollient.

Diplomacy was a way of avoiding the dangers that come from decisions taken in the heat of the moment. In their own palaces, two kings might be thumping the table and calling their rivals by abusive names; but in the quiet negotiating halls, the diplomat would say: ‘My king is slightly disconcerted…’

We still associate the term diplomacy with embassies, international relations, and high politics but it really refers to a set of skills that matter in many areas of daily life, especially in work and with our loved ones.

Diplomacy is the art of advancing an idea or cause without unnecessarily inflaming passions or unleashing a catastrophe. It involves an understanding of the many facets of human nature that can undermine agreement and stoke conflict, and a commitment to unpicking these with foresight and grace.

This course explores how each decision we make in our interactions with others carries weight and has an impact. That impact can lead to positive or negative outcomes. This class is an introduction to decision-making strategies used to inform better choices that lead to more optimal outcomes.

Shall it be War, or shall it be Peace? The choice is yours to make.

Polyhistoria classes emphasize critical thinking, analyzing, evaluating, and creating. We believe that students learn history best by doing what professional historians do.

(Read more about our approach to history.)

Our approach to academics helps learners view traditional disciplines in unconventional ways. With immersive classes that cross disciplines, learners stretch themselves both within and beyond conventional academic pathways, while small classes encourage close collaboration between learners and instructors. Today, Polyhistoria is the only comprehensive online learning platform teaching in-depth, cutting-edge social science scholarship to teenagers.

(Read more about our teaching philosophy.)

Learning is not a spectator sport. Interaction and intellectual exchanges involving all students and the instructor enrich learning for all. Studying history involves an accumulation of knowledge about the past. But it also requires that we communicate that knowledge to others. You must be ready to share your views in class. A worthwhile course depends upon active participation by all students in class discussions.

The goal here is to advance an intelligent conversation from which we all learn. The most obvious way to do that is to say smart things and say them clearly. But that is not the only meaningful way to participate. Asking a question, connecting something already on the table to another thing, clarifying something that someone else has said, and offering evidence from the text under discussion are also all valuable. Bonus points are awarded for contributions that draw on what others have said. Other things to keep in mind: aim for clarity, keep in mind the value of an amicable classroom environment, and try not to monopolize the conversation.

1) Students’ cameras and microphones must be turned on during the class.
2) This class requires the continuous use of logical thinking & hypothetical reasoning skills to critically and creatively analyze the topics covered in the class. These cognitive functions are generally not sufficiently developed until a student is 13+ years old. Students must have the ability to think critically and logically to analyze the topics covered in the class.

Assignments will be posted on the classroom wall each week for students and may include reading, researching, and watching videos. It will also include participation in the threaded discussions on the classroom wall.

1 hour per week in class, and an estimated 0 – 1 hour per week outside of class.

Meets once a week for 4 weeks
4 – 9 learners, ages 13-18