Oct 1, 201212:50 PMSingle Parent Link
The Single Parent Link
The Art of Negotiation
The first small victory came after an intense negotiation—for an hour, it was back and forth on each point of contention. Is this permissible? No. This? Perhaps—as long as these concessions are made. Both parties had grown weary, eagerly waiting for the other to relinquish control and accept the terms. Instead, the conversation seemed endless until the six year-old threw his hands up in the air and agreed to eat the peas, turn off the television and take a bath at some point in the week. I was overcome with relief and giddy over the win. It took about two minutes to realize that the entire process could have been smoother, less painful and far more effective if I had gone into the conversation with a better plan. That seemingly insignificant conversation impacted not only my conversations with my tiny tot negotiator, but also my professional interactions with colleagues.
You expect the endless negotiations as a parent. The haggling over meals, friends, clothes, the weather…every conversation is some sort of power struggle. It was easy to fall into a pattern of battling over every detail in life—and turn everything into a discussion. Professionally, I found myself repeating the same behavior—struggling to assert myself in conversations that usually ended poorly. Frustrated, I would wonder why they just couldn’t see my side of the issue. I would choose the daily battle and show up at high noon ready for the showdown. While I may have succeeded in getting my way, I lost more ground than I gained by not being able to successfully navigate the conversation. I found that in both the personal and professional scenarios, changing my approach with a logical plan would yield better results. Whether it was bath time or balance sheets, the approach was the same.
Pick Your Battles
Is it really worth the time and effort? Are you arguing because it is an automatic response to things not being done your way or because this is something that is truly important? Don’t turn everything into a full-scale battle of wills---not every disagreement is worth the escalation. Know what you want to get out of the conversation before it begins and pay attention to the body language and reactions of the other person. Be clear and direct—make your point and allow for a response. If you hit a brick wall, don’t continue to bang your head against it—regroup and determine the best course of action.
Don’t Expect Perfection or Ask the Impossible
Unreasonable expectations are commonplace for parents—wanting your little princess to be speaking fluent Mandarin by age three may be a good goal but is most likely not realistic. Expecting coworkers to execute every task or project perfectly is a workplace dream that will never happen. Holding yourself and others to standards of perfection creates an alternate reality that can’t possibly be realized. If the point of negotiation involves an unrealistic expectation for others, prepare to modify your standards or your “ask.” Nothing is more illogical than continuing to argue for something that is impossible to achieve. Adjust your expectations and set appropriate benchmarks and goals.
Temper Tantrums are for Toddlers
We’ve all been part of that uncomfortable exchange—when negotiation turns to arguing and the air becomes tense, veins begin to pulse and the temperature of the conversation skyrockets. We have seen or been that person who exits the conversation less gracefully than planned, with all of the trappings of a toddler’s temper tantrum. Experts say to leave the emotion out of an argument, but in reality---emotion is really the center of any discussion. If you didn’t really care, would you bother to discuss it? Emotions often run high if you rush into the conversation—changes within your job or family are ripe for these types of interactions. If you know that you are passionate about the topic and unable to remain impartial when discussing it, don’t. Wait until you have all of the facts and can logically and calmly enter the discussion. If that is not possible and it is something that needs to be resolved immediately, talk through the discussion with a friend or family member first—they should tell you honestly if your approach is appropriate.
Don’t Bulldoze the Conversation
Some of the worst professional and personal conversations involve a bulldozer—that person who refuses to listen to anyone else and continues to monopolize the conversation while laying out their opinion in excruciating detail, never pausing for even the slightest break. It leaves everyone else involved exhausted, as they try to engage in the conversation but are unable to do so. If you know that listening is not your strongest suit, force yourself to stop talking for even the smallest intervals in every day conversation—and when it comes to a negotiation, do whatever you can to remember that it is a two-sided conversation, no matter how passionate you are about the topic.
While negotiations are never easy, they serve a purpose. Calmly and pointedly discussing issues and strategies is all part of normal social and business interaction. The luxury of debate is that all opinions are valued—even though yours may not always be the one that wins. Successful negotiations are a practice we learn in childhood and hone forever.