Self Power Tools for Negotiating with the Love of My Life

Then there's the crib, clothes, babysitters....

This post is a continuation of my last post related to John,

who he gets home most weeknights at 9:00 p.m. instead of 6:00 p.m., which upsets Mary since he misses 3 hours of evening time that could be shared with her. Thus, arguments ensue. Below are the next steps (#3 and #4) based on the “method” described in my previous post, along with my comments:

3. Invent Options for Mutual Gain

Sometimes situations seem impossible to resolve and your options appear limited; it seems like an either/or situation. Or it appears that it’s the other person’s problem to figure out for themselves. Most people see negotiating a problem as trying to narrow the gap between positions instead of expanding the potential alternatives. The method does not suggest approaching negotiation from those perspectives. It suggests the following process to come up with creative options:

• Separate the act of inventing options from the act of judging them; talk about or make a list of possibilities without prejudging why they won’t work
• Stay open to considering there’s more than one answer or solution to the problem
• Talk about the options objectively by listening to each other and discussing how each option could benefit either or both of you
• Talk about your shared interests and look for mutual benefits

Deb’s reflection on options:

Instead of arguing, John and Mary can take a rational approach to discussing alternatives without being hard on the other person. Stay focused on the problem without labeling and criticizing the parties.

o John and Mary can agree to looking at various options for compromise on the time he gets home
o Mary can find a hobby or activities she can do without John so she doesn’t get bored or lonely
o They can decide to delay getting pregnant until they’re financially stable
o They can decide a baby is the most important thing in their life right now and make getting pregnant a priority.

4. Use Objective Criteria

• Rather than wasting time defending and attacking positions, talk about impartial or independent standards towards solutions; use an outside advisor or mutually agreed upon guidelines for making a decision
• Bring standards of fairness, efficiency or even scientific merit into the discussion
• Discuss your mutual values and previous commitments made to each other on the topic; if in conflict, discuss what has changed and possible options to get back on track
• Focus on the decisions you need to make prior to resolving the problem at hand
• Reason and be open to reason rather than standing firm on your position or a “matter of principle”

Deb’s reflection on criteria:

o John’s career was always a priority to both of them, and the decision to start a family right now was spontaneous and possibly ill-timed
o John and Mary’s situation may require counseling
o Is this the right time to start a family? Does Mary need counseling for her insecurities
o If it’s agreed they want a family now, does John need to re-evaluate his schedule? Do they need to revise their budget to adjust timing for a baby?

Leave Personalities Out of It

Of course there are many more variations of interests, options and criteria. The key is to focus on the problem and avoid bringing in personality, past experiences, and undesirable habits or behavior in the other person. There’s obviously more required than these negotiating principles to create harmony with the man of your dreams. Plus, he needs to be a willing participant with this approach.

However, what I feel can be effective about this process is that it sets aside much of the emotional drama and focuses on a process of resolving a problem and coming to a decision. It would be ideal if most of our problems in relationships worked in this manner.

Do Love and Life Differently: Emotional reactions are a normal part of being human, but self-indulgent resistance and irrational behavior are so last millennium. It’s time to evolve as a culture and improve the way we resolve differences as couples and as a society.

Do you believe it’s possible to live in harmony long term with a romantic partner? Please comment below.

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