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In healthy relationships, negotiation is a skill that allows for each person to be heard and have his/her needs considered. Through negotiation, we learn to see issues from several points of view and this enables us to work as a team toward agreed-upon rules and choices. Negotiation is a great tool for building trust, intimacy, safety, and interdependence.

Sharpen Your Negotiation Skills

Negotiating is an art as well as a skill. There are several things that need to be considered for negotiation to be successful. One thing that can block us from successfully negotiating is that we have a hard time managing intense emotions and stepping outside of ourselves to understand others’ points of view.

Stumbling Block to Successful Negotiation:

  • Power plays: These tend to happen when we are feeling scared or vulnerable. We feel threatened so our impulse is to want to control the situation or person. A power play is anything said or done that creates unequal ground. Power plays destroy safety and trust. An example of a power play is a person leaving the room during a negotiation because he/she is getting what he/she wants. Now a negotiation can’t even take place.
  • Power struggles: Power struggles are based on the need for someone to be right and someone to be wrong. When the conversation is going in circles and escalating, you’re probably caught in a power struggle. Getting stuck in a blaming cycle based on past mistakes is an example of a power struggle.
  • Manipulation: Manipulation undermines safe negotiation because it is not honest and only focuses on the person who is manipulating. Other people’s needs and feelings are not being considered. Manipulation reduces trust in any relationship.
  • Lose/lose or Win/lose situations: We live in a competitive society and it’s easy to think we always need to win at all costs. However, when our discussions are about winning or being right instead of how we can work together in a way that all people involved feel comfortable, we create distance, defensiveness, inequality and shame. The goal of our negotiations should be win/win. This may not always be possible but it can be the general feeling if a family works at it.

Tips for Successful Negotiations:

  • Ask yourself what you are willing to sacrifice and put it on the table.
  • Make your own offer. Do not offer for someone else or tell him/her what his/her offer should be.
  • Use responsible language in your thoughts, feelings, and offers.
  • Explain on an emotional level how you see the situation and why you are having difficulties wanting to sacrifice.
  • Negotiating means you come to an agreement somewhere in the middle. It is not about deciding who is right or better.

Begin to Negotiate in Your Family

  • To begin the process of negotiation in your family, it is important to decide what is negotiable and what is not negotiable. Since every member may have different ideas about this, discuss this with your family.
  • Think about the stumbling blocks to successful negotiations and if they are used in your family. Write down ways to avoid these in your next negotiation.