Every day, in every relationship–even the one we have with ourselves, we are negotiating all the time. Wouldn’t it be wise to hone your skills?
When I’m working with couples or workplace teams, I see it so clearly. They have not learned or honed their skills of negotiation. In fact, they do not see most of their more difficult conversations as negotiations in the first place. They see them as “debates,” “discussions” and “fights.” They seldom realize that they are negotiations. And, with applied skills, things could go much more smoothly!
Gerard Nierenberg in The Complete Negotiatior says that:
“…negotiation occurs when human beings exchange ideas for the purpose of changing their relationships.”
Isn’t that actually what is happening when we sit down with our partner, spouse, boss, mother or teenager to discuss something that we think needs changing? Sure it is. And, that’s negotiation.
It all depends on our desire and ability to communicate. If we just want to tell them what we want, why we want it and what we want them to do about it, that’s an enlightened…or, maybe not so enlightened… dictatorship.
If we are actually in a relationship with them that we would like to see improve over time, we need to negotiate. We do tell them what we want, and maybe why we want it, but that’s where the negotiation begins. Do we take the time to find out:
- If they are interested?
- If it’s a good time to talk?
- If they have what we want them to give us?
- If they are capable or willing to give it to us?
- If they want something in return that would further enhance the relationship?
- If they have an interest in collaborating?
These are important considerations. Recently, I worked with a couple where one partner thought it possible to simply lay out how it had to be if the relationship was to continue. If there had been abuse, neglect, or an addiction problem in the mix, that might have been a final step. There wasn’t. She thought, that by putting it out there strongly, it would smarten her partner up. In fact, it was exacerbated by her adding these fateful words:
“If you really loved me you would do it!”
That’s not negotiation. That is a killer blow in the wrong direction for sure. (Anytime you are ever tempted to say that, stuff a sock in your mouth and hum ‘Happy Birthday!” You may choke, but that seems a small price to pay for not taking the relationship to a new low!!!
We cannot negotiate well when we see our partner as our adversary, someone we are fighting against. I teach negotiation for an executive MBA program for a university. Even at that level, negotiating big and small deals, managing large staffs, participating on leadership teams, and sitting at tables with many people deciding the fate of an organization or country, you cannot see the others as your enemies, people to take something from, or people to coerce, manipulate or finagle into doing what you want them to do. Believe me, that’s a recipe for disaster. So, it’s not surprising that it won’t work well in your primary relationships!
To give you some insights into the basics of negotiating well, I’ve posted an article on this site, Steps to Effective Negotiation. CLICK HERE to read it. I think you’ll find it very useful…and you just may get what you want, too!
Need relationship help? I work with individuals and couples all over the continent through Skype audio and video. You can book an appointment with me by visiting this link, CLICK HERE.