Super Negotiating for Couples

Why Learn to Negotiate?

Learn to negotiate so you can effectively handle conflict. All healthy relationships need conflict to grow however many people are afraid of conflict because they don’t know how to negotiate. Learn how to create “win-win” situations with effective negotiating skills. Good negotiation will also vastly improve your communication skills.

What Can Be Negotiated?

The only things that can really be negotiated are behaviors and decisions: In other words what someone will do and when they will do it. You cannot negotiate things like your core values, your spirituality, emotions, attitudes and trust.

3 Most Common Negotiating Mistakes:

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

Negotiation is an ongoing process not a one-time event. The more complex the situation is the more trial and error solutions will be needed. There is no such thing as a perfect solution. Good negotiation leads to acceptable solutions that work for both parties and strengthen the relationship.

Good Negotiation Starts With You

Ask yourself how you aspire to be during the negotiation. Some helpful attitudes to consider are:

  • Openness about yourself
  • Listening
  • Curiosity about aspects of your partner’s struggles
  • Managing your emotional reactivity when talking about sensitive topics

A Grossly Simplified Overview of Successful Negotiating Steps

A) Prepare!

Before you start negotiations ask yourself:

  • What do I want?
  • How important is this to me?
  • Why is it important
  • How could I make it easier for my partner to say “Yes”?

B) Start by stating the area of disagreement without finger pointing or blaming your partner. Otherwise you will cause your partner to become defensive, which would begin negotiations on a very slippery and unproductive slope.

A good starting line is, “We seem to disagree about…” Rather than; “The problem is you…”

C) Take turns expressing your concerns and desires about the disagreement.
Person ‘A’ talks while person ‘B’ listens without interrupting. After person ‘A’ has finished person ‘B’ offers a summary of what they heard without reframing or interpreting. They are simply recapping so that person ‘A’ feels heard.

I would like to emphasize here that recapping what your partner said does not mean you are agreeing with them! This is also a good time to ask questions for clarity.

D) Switch roles.
E) After each person has expressed all their concerns and desires and each person feels understood it is time for brainstorming solutions.

It is important to realize that there might be some parts of solutions you agree with and other parts that you don’t. Remember that negotiating is an experiment and that no one is locked into a permanent solution.

F) Continue making suggestions until an agreement is reached.

G) Make a time specific agreement. Decide for how long you will try this solution. Decide when you will review these negotiations.

Et Voila! Obviously negotiating takes practice and sometimes a skilled third person is needed to help a couple navigate the many pitfalls that can arise. However with persistence and willingness, negotiating is a skill that can be developed. It is also an invaluable ‘tool’ for your communications toolbox that will serve you in all your relationships.

[sources: original article by Ellyn Bader, PhD and Peter Pearson, PhD edited by Robert Solley, PhD]

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