Last week, we started a three-part series for my blog and newsletter on handling difficult conversations with your caregivers, and managing your care relationships, as requested by you, our readers.
Check out Part II: Negotiating, below, featuring some great advice from Mark Crowley, our PR Director and resident expert on handling things diplomatically.
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Negotiating: Developing Long-Term Relationships
By Mark Crowley
Negotiation is an inevitable part of our daily lives. Whether it's deciding on a fair amount to pay the babysitter or vying for control of the TV remote with your kids, we all find ourselves in situations where we might not see eye to eye with someone else and therefore must negotiate for a cause (including the right to watch Grey's Anatomy). More times than not, it's easy to let emotions grab hold during the negotiation process, especially when you believe that things are not going your way.
Recently, I had the pleasure of attending a workshop led by Dr. Daniel Shapiro, the Founder and Director of the Harvard International Negotiation Initiative. Dr. Shapiro has trained everyone from business executives to key negotiators in the United States, Middle East and China—so I figured if anyone could help me develop a strategy for getting some help with the dishes, this was the guy.
As Dr. Shapiro explained, emotions play an important role in negotiation, but often times our lack of understanding about the impact they can have makes for an inefficient negotiation process. You get home from a long day at the office and your nanny asks if she can have tomorrow off. You immediately think, "No way...how inconsiderate to spring this on me at the last minute." Already, emotions have crept into the equation here. For many of us (author included), this seems like a reasonable reaction to this request (we're human after all).
Dr. Shapiro outlined two core concerns that not only help us to better understand the emotional element of negotiation, but also allow us to constructively use our emotions, as opposed to letting them get the best of us. As Dr. Shapiro described, it is important in negotiation to turn away from the emotion itself and look at the following core concerns:
As humans, it's natural that we like to feel appreciated. In negotiations though, it's easy to feel misunderstood, undervalued or unheard—essentially, unappreciated. Just as a key indicator of a well-run organization is how appreciated the employees feel, a key factor in a successful negotiation process is how valued each participant feels.
When my parents used to tell me I couldn't go to a party that EVERYONE was going to—well, I felt pretty unappreciated. Didn't they hear me say EVERYONE was going? Sure, now I appreciate that my parents were looking out for my safety, but back then, not so much. At least I don't remember telling them that in the midst of yelling and storming to my room.
In simple terms, emotions can shut down a negotiation before it even begins. Maybe I could have gone to the party for a little while or perhaps my parents could have allowed me to have a friend over instead. There's always the potential for middle ground, but both parties need to feel as though they have a voice for the discussion to have any hope of being productive.
In simple terms, affiliation is the emotional connection between you and another. We all have "affiliates" in our own lives—parents, friends, caregivers, co-workers. In negotiation, affiliation can have a powerful impact on the emotions that come into play.
Dr. Shapiro had us turn to our neighbor in the audience and spend two minutes trying to find things in common with them. Tom, who I had been sitting silently next to for an hour, turned out to also be a Syracuse graduate working at an Internet start-up! I was just about ready to invite Tom to lunch when Dr. Shapiro announced time was up.
The point of the exercise? Dr. Shapiro asked if we would be more comfortable approaching a negotiation with the person next to us after the two minute conversation, compared to beforehand. Of course we all said yes. The simple lesson here, it's always more comfortable to deal with a colleague than an adversary. Take our earlier example of the nanny asking for a day off. Our inherent reaction is to focus on the negative, but start by looking at your nanny as a "teammate" instead of an opponent. The motivation behind her request probably isn't to make your life difficult. Even if it's unrealistic to give your nanny the full day off, your willingness to work with her on figuring out a solution will be well received.
In the end, emotions are unavoidable when it comes to negotiation. It's inevitable that a person is going to feel passionate about the issue or cause they are fighting for (did I mention, EVERYONE was going to the party?). But how we manage and acknowledge our emotions is what's key to an effective negotiation process.
Have additional tips or advice on handling negotiations? Share them with the Care.com community by posting a comment!