Super Negotiating for Couples

Negotiation can be messy and riddled with tension. Finger pointing, selfish demands, and resentful compliance are often part of the process. But this is normal.

Managing tricky emotions is part of negotiation. So are conflicts of values and feelings. These factors do not lend themselves to an easy list of negotiation steps.
These guidelines will help you avoid the three most common negotiating mistakes couples make:

1. Caving in too quickly to avoid tension or to keep the peace
2. Stubbornly pushing too hard for your own solution
3. Failure to prepare before the negotiation with your partner

Here are some basic concepts to start with:

Why learn to negotiate?
1.      Conflict is inevitable for growth in your relationship
2.    Many people are frightened of conflict because they can’t negotiate
3.    If you can negotiate you don’t need to be so afraid of conflict
4.    Good negotiation leads to acceptable solutions that work for both and strengthen your relationship
5.      Your communication skills automatically improve as you develop good negotiating skills
Win-win solutions
These are the best and are often difficult to attain. They require self-knowledge plus a very high degree of understanding of your partner’s values, concerns and desires. Respect for yourself and for your partner, openness and persistence becomes the foundation that makes negotiation successful.

Negotiation is an ongoing process, not a one-time event.
1. The more complex the situation, the higher the stakes, the more your core values are involved, the longer it will take
2. The more complex the problem, the more trial and error solutions will be attempted
3. There is no such thing as a perfect solution. Every solution sets the stage for another problem. This will likely be a challenge you would not have even attempted because you were stuck on a lower rung of the ladder.

The difference between negotiation for couples and other negotiations
1.The amount of self disclosure required is higher for couples.
2. Effective compromises for complex problems require lots of openness, curiosity, and emotional risk.

Skills required for negotiating with your partner
2. Openness about yourself
3. Curiosity about aspects of your partner’s struggles

Some things cannot be negotiated
1. Core values
2. Integrity
3. Spirituality
4. Emotions
5. Attitudes
6. Trust
Do your best to separate interests and concerns from values. You can negotiate your interests but not your core values or integrity. For example, it doesn’t work to say, “I’ll give up my spiritual beliefs for you.”

The only things you can really negotiate are behavior and decisions
1. What someone will do
2. And when they will do it

How to prepare to negotiate
1. Ask yourself how you aspire to be during the negotiation. (eg, calm, open, flexible, honest, understanding, curious).
2. By following guidelines set for yourself, you can stay more easily focused toward a successful outcome. This is an often overlooked aspect of negotiation.
3. Staying conscious of your own guidelines will help keep you centered and focused. 4. Write your guidelines on a piece of paper and keep glancing at them during the negotiation. You will come across like an experienced negotiator simply by staying consistent with your own guidelines.

Emotions and attitudes can interfere with effective negotiation, before it even starts
1. I don’t deserve it. I’m not worthy.
2. If I get what I want I will be obligated in the future to give when I don’t want to be giving.
2. I never get what I want.
3. My partner doesn’t care about what I want.
4. What I want is more important than what my partner wants.
5. I Won’t let anyone push me around.
6. Have to fight for what you want in life.
7. Whoever wants it the most should get what they want.

Fears that interfere with good negotiation
1. Fear of consequences of being assertive
2. Fear of offending partner if assertive
3. Fear of disrupting relationship if assertive
4. Fear that if you ask and don’t get, it triggers old memories of similar experiences
5. Fear that if you really seek to understand your partner’s concerns you will have to agree with what they want

Before you start the negotiation, quietly reflect on the following questions:

1. What do I want?
2. How important is this to me?
3. Why is it important?
4. To get what I want, what will I need to do and what will my partner need to do?
5. If I get most of what I want what is the positive and negative effect on my partner?
6. How could I make it easier for my partner to say yes?
7. I’m afraid if we don’t resolve this disagreement, then the effect on me and my partner might be ……………?.
8. If I get most of what I want, the effect on me would be …………….?
9. I get most of what I want, the benefit to my partner might be ……………?
10.However, it may be difficult for my partner to give me most of what I want because…….. ?
11. I may be able to increase the benefits to my partner by …………………….?
12. I may be able to decrease the downside to my partner by …………………..?
Any other relevant information that has not been suggested …………?

Do not feel like you need to robotically go through these questions and statements in a dialogue with your partner. But as you get mentally clear about these issues it will make it easier to conversationally express your concerns and desires.

Start by stating the area of disagreement
It is important to describe the issue as disagreement instead of as a problem. It is very difficult to say “The problem is ___________” without pointing fingers at your partner or yourself. This actual or implied finger pointing leads to a defensive reaction from one or both parties. The negotiation then begins to slip like a house built on loose gravel.

State the disagreement in the form, “We seem to disagree about _______________.”
Then take turns expressing what your concerns and desires are about the disagreement.

Describe concerns about the subject
One person goes first and expresses all their concerns while the partner listens without rebutting or defending anything. The response is simply to recap and check for understanding. It may also be necessary to ask questions for clarity.

Avoid leading questions that sound like, “Did it ever occur to you that…?”

Brainstorm solutions
After each person has expressed all their concerns and desires, and each of you feels understood, then it is time for brainstorming solutions.

One partner proposes a solution
Make the suggested proposal in the following format:

What I suggest is ____________________________________.
This suggestion works for me because ____________________________________.
This suggestion might work for you because ____________________________________.

The reason for this “formula”
1. It encourages being a good self advocate.
2. Simultaneously it forces you to consider your partner’s perspective and helps prevent the possibility of being a stubborn for only what one person wants.

The other partner responds
1. If the partner agrees with the whole suggestion, then recap why it works.
2. If the partner does not agree then start with recapping the part that does work.
3. The part that does work is _________________________________.
4.The part that doesn’t work is _________________________________.
5. So my alternative suggestion is _________________________________.
6. This suggestion works for me because _________________________________.
7. And it might work for you because _________________________________.
7. Add value to your offers. Keep finding ways to make it easier for your partner to say yes.

Remember – this negotiation is only an experiment- nobody is locked into a permanent solution. It is only for a period of time to see what if anything needs adjusting.

Repeat suggestions until agreement is reached.

Take action
1. If action is appropriate, decide who will do what by when.
2. Decide for how long you will try this solution.

1. After the action phase come back and evaluate the results.
2. If things are fine, continue for another block of time.

Round two, three, etc.
If it didn’t work out as well as hoped, each person begins by saying, “Honey, it didn’t work the way I hoped, but here is what I could have done differently.” Don’t start by stating what your partner should have done differently.

Then repeat appropriate steps above