Self-Power Tools for Negotiating with the Man of My Dreams

The love of my life is really annoying me

This post is dedicated to women who are in new romances with their potential “man of my dreams”

and also those in committed relationships or even married. Having an M.B.A. background, I’m always interested in relating what I learned in business school to romantic partnerships. I’ve just finished reading an outstanding book about how to negotiate agreement without giving in called Getting to Yes by Fisher, Ury and Patton. Based on a Harvard study and written in 1981, the method, described as “principled negotiation”, is still very applicable today.

I believe this method would be very useful if applied to our personal and romantic relationships. The premise is that mutual agreements in any conflict can be achieved without getting angry or ending in a win-lose proposition, in which one party feels they were taken advantage of or perhaps compromised too much.

Communicating with the One

Once you meet a man who could be the One, you want to do your best to let go of any negative patterns you may have that lead to arguments or miscommunications with your self-described man of my dreams. You might even introduce him to a better way of problem-solving. Let me summarize the getting-to-yes method and put my spin on it below for romantic partnerships.

The Method

The method consists of these four principles:

• Separate the people from the problem
• Focus on interests, not positions
• Invent options for mutual gain
• Use objective criteria

We human beings have emotions, deeply held values, different backgrounds and viewpoints, which make us unpredictable. With practice over time, I believe couples can build trust and learn to resolve problems smoothly without a lot of drama. We all want to feel good about ourselves and care about what our partner thinks of us, which can often make us more sensitive to our partner’s interests. On the other hand, people’s egos can be threatened or their buttons get pushed causing anger, depression, fear and frustration. Miscommunications and misunderstandings often occur that lead to a vicious cycle of squabbling that’s not even related to the specific problem. Hence, drama.

And I call you the man of my dreams

Avoiding Drama and Getting to Solution

I’m going to over-simplify this, but for the sake of walking through the method, let’s create a hypothetical problem: Mary is feeling that John is spending too much time at the office and not enough time with her. Mary is a homebody and enjoys connecting with John at the end of the work day, and they’re also trying to have a baby. John feels that he has to work hard to build his reputation to be promoted in his company, since they want to start a family. Besides, John feels he’s more productive and likes to work late when the office is quiet. This means he gets home most weeknights at 9:00 p.m. instead of 6:00 p.m., meaning he misses 3 hours of evening time shared with Mary. Thus, arguments ensue.

1. Separate the people from the problem

• Stick to the problem and facts and the impact it is having on you
• Avoid personal attacks, pointing fingers and blame.
• Put yourself in your partner’s shoes to really try to see his perspective and experience his emotions.
• Don’t assume you know his intentions based on your own fears.
• Don’t blame him for what you know is your problem

Deb’s reflection on the facts:

Mary wants to spend weekday evenings with John, as she enjoys bonding in the evening after work, while John wants to work hard and be more productive to rise up in the company. Both of them have reasonable desires.

2. Focus on interests, not positions

• Positions are usually concrete and explicit such as a demand being made (i.e. Mary telling John he needs to come home earlier)
• Interests are often unexpressed, intangible or contradictory; and they can overlap for both sides (i.e. John wants Mary to get pregnant too).
• Asking “why” or “why not” can bring to light interests (i.e. Why is it important to Mary that John spend more shared time? Is it her insecurities or desire to get pregnant)
• Each side can have multiple interests (i.e. Mary wants to get pregnant and John’s schedule causes him to be tired and it interferes with their sex life)
• Focus on and try to satisfy the most powerful interests, which are basic human needs, including:
o Security
o Economic well-being
o A sense of belonging
o Recognition
o Control over one’s life

• Be hard on the problem and soft on the people as mentioned in #1 above.

Deb’s reflection on interests:

Mary likes the togetherness with John and she also wants to get pregnant. John wants to earn more money for financial security and to be able to afford to start a family. They have individual and overlapping interests.

To be continued….with steps 3 & 4 in my next post titled “Part 2 of Negotiating with the Love of My Life”.

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