The Inner Circle
Conspicuous or not, negotiation is intricately woven into our internal landscape. This involves dealing with individuals who are near and dear to us; spouses, relatives, and close friends.
Should I call Domino’s and risk offending my partner, or just heat up the leftover lasagne she was so eager for me to try? Make a scene by the frozen goods section at Kroger, or just wait until both of us get home? Accept a “friend” request from your high school sweetheart, or have 8 years not gone some ways to dampen the heartbreak? All forms of negotiations.
By no stretch of the imagination am I an Agony Aunt, but let’s explore the parameters of negotiation in a love relationship.
Suppose your partner had planned your monthly couples outing to an escape room downtown. But you’d rather just grab a decent meal and call it a night. Quite frankly, you would be fine not even escaping the couch. Casual negotiation quickly turns into a heated discussion.
You channel your inner Harvey Specter and propose several motions as to why the escape room isn’t an ideal choice. A resolution can not be met, and eventually your partner caves in.
Awesome, you won!
Now you can settle into more episodes of Suits.
Unknowingly to you, resentment sits at the other end of the spectrum. Your partner, who had made negotiations of her own; money saved, time off work, and outfits picked-out, is left feeling disparaged and utterly defeated. But you won, right?
Bitterness is the only seed sown in this instance, and when watered with the prospect of future disagreements, will only send your relationship into disarray.
Do you still think you won?
‘They say love doesn’t cost a thing, but I don’t buy it’
— Yxng Bane.
Tread carefully. You cannot approach negotiation in this territory with the same bullishness you typically would on the outside.
How do you win or lose without incurring too much damage?
Compromise? Sure, you could do that.
Although, compromise isn’t this magic potion that remedies all conflicts. It’s a relatively passive approach to bypass negotiations that may be integral for the progression of your relationship. Feeble attempts to meet your partner halfway only create more roadblocks as neither of you gets what you want.
An alternative method worth considering is to;
Shut up and Listen
Sounds simple enough. Yet, active listening is a value that our society often disregards. We listen with the intent to bypass, as opposed to genuinely trying to understand. Don’t even cap. In most conversations, you’re already thinking of a suitable response long before you’ve even processed the full context of what is being said.
Again, I attribute the blame of what can only be described as a ‘microwave generation’ to the rise of social media. I touch briefly on this social dilemma in my earlier blog — “Write Stories You Want Your Younger Self to Read.”
Negotiations in your inner circle require you to be an acute listener. A listening person reflects the crowd, letting the talking person listen to themselves.
‘You said this…’
‘Then I noticed that…’
..and became aware of X’
At its most granular level, negotiation involves jostling for the best possible outcome given set conditions. I assume you want the best for your partner, whatever that may be. Active listening allows you to set your aim properly, so your response can emerge from the appropriate motivation.
Listening means you are working towards a solution you can both embrace and implement. It’s a double-edged sword. As your partner’s words cut, it simultaneously fosters a needed shift in your rational thinking.
This is far more wholesome than compromise’s lose-lose, whereby you are both giving up or giving in. A positive mental shift leads to more informed decision-making and overall better negotiations.
Perhaps that’s why listening is so hard. Reinforcing our echo-chamber offers a far more tranquil path than accepting that we may need to change. I get it, change is tough.
Do things in your life generally go how you envision or are you presented with roadblocks that you have to negotiate your way through?
Almost there! If you take nothing else away from this piece, pay particularly close attention here as this final point is a culmination of everything we have discussed so far.
The most important negotiation you make is with yourself. Allow me to reiterate, the most important negotiation you will EVER make is with yourself.
Your mind is the driving force for all that you do. It is the immutable energy for your happiness, your failures, your opportunities, and your challenges. Forget about ‘walking away’ or ‘active listening’, failure to effectively address arbitration within your soul could prove fatal.
How do you expect to move others when you can’t even move yourself?
You must have heard the old Cherokee legend, ‘Tale of Two Wolves”. In case you haven’t, allow me to enlighten you. It’s a story of a grandfather using a metaphor of two wolves fighting within him to explain his inner conflicts to his grandson.
One wolf is characterized by negativity — anger, envy, sorrow, self-pity, inferiority, superiority, and ego. The other wolf is marked by positivity — compassion, benevolence, serenity, humility, faith, and love.
When the grandson asks which wolf wins, the grandfather openly replies,
‘The one you feed”
More often than not, we are all battling some kind of internal turmoil. We do our best to shield this from the rest of the world. Only you know the true depth of these scuffles. Likewise, only you have the power to quell them. Conflict resolution is tightly embedded in the art of negotiation, and what better way to resolve an internal conflict than to negotiate with yourself.
Personal negotiation is not simply regurgitating words of affirmation to yourself in the mirror. It is taking deliberate steps to act per who you are and what you truly want. Politely ask yourself to cooperate in manifesting these wishes, but here’s the kicker. Forgive yourself when you inevitably slip up.
“Tyranny is the exercise of power beyond right, which nobody can have a right to.”
— John Locke
While the need for discipline, willpower, and tenacity cannot be overstated, do not hold yourself a prisoner. Do not be the tyrant king. If you’ve been dialed into a diet for a while and suddenly develop an insatiable craving for ice-cream. Should you forego the temptation and live miserably? — Or just eat the damn ice-cream.
Transform the practice into a game. By negotiating with yourself, you are practicing moral virtue as defined by the Greek philosopher, Aristotle. By acting as a mean between the extremities of deficiency and excess, you enforce what works for you and less of what doesn't.
Fueling the objections of your inner tyrant is not virtuous. And it’s certainly not virtuous to succumb to bullies, even if that bully is you. So, make a deal with yourself to be on the same team.
Monopoly seems like a distant memory now, but let’s attempt to connect the dots on the main strategies for negotiations.
№1: Walk Away
When your opponent offers to trade his property for your railroad, do not be afraid to walk away from the deal and color your own options. Mayfair and Trafalgar Square are still available on the board. Who knows, you might even land on the treasure chest on the next roll.
When a “comrade” suggests an innovative way for you to “Get Out of Jail”. listen attentively and you might actually learn something. Remember the old way is not necessarily the right way.
№3: Quell The Inner Tyrant
Finally, Bet on Yourself. You’ve got the dice, so drown out the internal cynic and roll that mug. If you land on free parking, wonderful. If not, there’s always the next round.
From the major to the mundane, negotiation is inescapable and encompasses all avenues of our lives. Hopefully, you have come to realize that everything is negotiable. Everything that is, except for death. Not to end on such nihilism but this is the pending reality for us all.
With that in mind,
What’s stopping you from negotiating the life that you do want?
Negotiate with others, negotiate with lovers, negotiate with yourself, and for goodness sake;