May 9, 2013

Negotiating Wants in a Relationship. ~ Catherine la O’

One of the many skills I learned from my sales days that I’ve been able to use in my personal life is a real understanding of negotiation.

Learning to negotiate in any kind of relationship is a beautiful and powerful thing. Surprisingly, very few people know how to do it.

People hear the word negotiate and they imagine a horribly uncomfortable conversation with a cut-throat sharp talker who has an “I’m gonna screw you” approach. Yes, some business people call that negotiating, but I assure you it is not.

Success in sales does not mean winning every last battle. The true testament of a great sales person is the strength of the relationship they have with their customer. They listen deeply to what their customer has to say and they do their best to keep their word so that trust is built between them. They spend time thinking about their customer’s business and truly understand that their customer’s success also means their success. Their customer matters to them and the customer knows it.

Sounds logical, right?

Try this: go back and re-read the paragraph above, replacing the word customer with the word boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, wife, friend or boss and ask yourself if your actions with these individuals support that same logic. Learning to negotiate with your partner, boss or friend will help support this ideology and strengthen your relationship.

In negotiation, the goal is that both parties get as close to their ideal vision as possible.

Each party involved commits to see that this is accomplished. Both parties spell out their most ideal “in a perfect world” scenario. Each person sketches out the image so the other can get a clear understanding of what is wanted. Both parties should spend some time getting to know the nuances of the other person’s vision and work to understand why they want it.

Oftentimes, in relationships, our visions bump into each other—they don’t line up and then one person is left feeling like they must give up what they want in order to be in that relationship. This is how resentments are formed. And sometimes, it might be true that one person gives up more, but mostly it’s because there hasn’t been a proper negotiation process set in place.

Another major misconception of negotiation is that in order to reach an agreement, one of us has to sacrifice, so we start offering up chunks of what we want. This is false. This is not a time to be a martyr.

After you have spent some time getting to know each others visions, your goal then is to help the other person manifest that vision.

Be supportive. When both people are supportive of attaining each others goals, it’s not uncommon that both get what they want, even if it might look a little different than you first thought. The game becomes more fun because together you are brainstorming and finding creative ways to help each other.

For example, I can’t stand football. I hate football season because all men turn into zombie robots and never want to do anything but watch TV. I also love my Sundays. They are the only day of the week my boyfriend and I share off. So, during football season, it can become a battle where one of us has to miss something we like or sit through something we don’t in order to spend the day together. This usually leaves one of us feeling like we lost and that doesn’t make either of us very happy.

Instead, what we do is share our visions, have a playful conversation about what we both want, and then begin the negotiation.

I share my vision: “It’s a beautiful day outside. I want to do something fun, have lunch, socialize with others and maybe end the day at sunset with a margarita!”

He shares his: “My favorite teams are playing, my fantasy football team is doing well and I want to watch the games.”

I say, “It’s not that I mind watching a game, I just don’t want to be tied to the TV all day.”

He says, “These are the main games I want to see. There seem to be some gaps of time between them.”

I say, “There is a street festival going on across town that would be fun. There are a couple of sports bars along the way.”

We go back and forth offering each other options until we land on one that sounds fun to both of us. Then, we hop on his tandem bike and ride across town to the street festival, timing our stops at different venues along the way so he can see the games he wanted to see.

In this example, it took us almost the whole day to get to the festival, but it was a great adventure. He got to see the games while surrounded by other folks to cheer with (even I hooted a few of them on) and I got to be outside on an adventure. Win-win. Negotiation successful. Go team!

Of course this is a light and breezy example, but it works for the tougher gridlocks too. Just use the steps below and see how it works for you.

Let’s review:

Step #1: State your ideal vision—be specific.

Step #2: Listen to the other person’s vision—be inquisitive.

Step #3: Try and help the other person manifest their vision—get creative.

Step #4: Don’t stop until you are both excited about the results—brainstorm.

No one is happy if one is not happy.

I will leave you with a beautiful story I saw on Facebook the other day to help get you in the spirit.

An anthropologist proposed a game to the kids in an African tribe. He put a basket full of fruit near a tree and told the kids that whoever got there first won the sweet fruits. When he told them to run they all took each others hands and ran together, then sat together enjoying their treats. When he asked them why they had run like that when one could have had all the fruits for himself, they said, “UBUNTU. How can one of us be happy if all the other ones are sad?” UBUNTU in the Xhosa culture means: “I am because we are.”

Now, try it and comment to let me know what happens. UBUNTU!

Catherine la O‘ is a certified Integral Life Coach, blogger, yogini, and music lover. As a blogger, Catherine offers self-exposing personal insights gathered from her own journey of self-discovery. She hopes her writing will inspire and support other women on a similar path. As a coach, she believes the center point of positive personal growth comes from understanding one’s own inner shadow and works with her clients using tools from that philosophy. If you are interested in connecting with Catherine you may find her through her website or through her Facebook page.

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Assistant ed: Catherine Monkman

Ed: Kate Bartolotta

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