Negotiating better than holding grudges

Negotiation means having a “discussion aimed at reaching an agreement.” In a “difficult conversation,” that needs for something to be done or exchanged for a resolution, one or both sides may not want to do or pay what is asked of them.

 Hopefully, both sides have respectfully listened to the other side’s story, feelings and know what they want. But maybe one side doesn’t agree to something the other requests.

Is the negotiation over? Maybe not. We can respectfully ask, “May I ask why?”

 When the person shares why, repeat it back so you know that you heard it correctly. You might offer to do something to help fix it. For example, if they don’t trust your word, you could give references of people who do trust your word. If you once were a person whose word wasn’t trustworthy you could say, “In the past, I didn’t honor all my promises, but I have changed. I’ve been let down by others who broke promises, and now I honor them because I want people to honor promises made to me.”   

We change. We learn. We make better decisions and we grow up. People want to forgive because it means that they also are worthy of being forgiven.

It takes a lot of energy to hold a grudge. That’s energy that can be used for fun!

 If you said you’d do something and didn’t do it, apologize. Do it, or something similar the other side would have you do as soon as possible, and agree on a time to come back to finish the negotiation.

Actions always speak louder than words. For you to act on your word shows you mean what you say.

Stand by your word

How important is your honor or your reputation to you? Be that person whom others go to that they respect and trust. It’s really the most precious thing we have, and you will miss it when your good reputation is ruined.

 Sometimes a person needs more than an apology or an old debt filled. Let’s say you want to borrow your Dad’s car. You ask for the car, and Dad says, “No.” When you ask why, it’s because you brought the car home dirty and low on gas.

So you say that this time you’ll bring the car back at the same level of gas and clean. He still doesn’t trust you. You could give him collateral. Collateral is, “something pledged as security for repayment of a loan, to be forfeited in the event of a default.”

In other words, you give your dad something valuable of yours to hold, like a watch, surfboard or ukulele, until you return the car with the correct gas level and clean. And if you don’t do it, he keeps what you gave him.

When people make an agreement, it can be vague at first. “Mr. X will pay Mr. Y for the Xbox he accidentally damaged. Agreements have to be very clear. Keep exchanging information until you both agree and both know what is expected of you. If one person is paying back another, be clear as to when and where the payment will be delivered. It is a good idea to write down specifics. “Mr. X agrees to give Mr. Y $40 in cash, the last day of the month at Lihue Starbucks at 5 p.m. until the total amount of $120 is paid off.” Both of you should sign it.

Be flexible

Sometimes when something needs to be paid or replaced, it’s good to think outside of the box and not just think in dollar bills. Once I led a court mediation between a landlord and a tenant. The tenant had been in an accident and was behind in his rent. The landlord wanted his past due rent. The tenant just didn’t have it. I asked if there was something of value that he did have and he said that he had a motorcycle worth more than the rent due. Since his accident he wasn’t able to ride anymore, anyway. They both agreed that exchange would be perfect.

Show respect

Finally, we just have to realize that some things are just non-negotiable! Like getting a ticket for driving under the influence or letting a friend use your brother’s iPad without permission. You can’t make an agreement that involves someone who isn’t at the negotiation table and you can’t negotiate your way out of a ticket.

Maybe in court you can plead your case, but law enforcement officers are paid to enforce the laws that the state/nation/county have agreed to make laws. And sometimes you don’t want to give up those wonderful tickets to see your favorite band no matter what.

In my experiences, when I’ve helped people negotiate, I’ve found that if one person gives a little, the other person is likely to give a little, too. We can’t always get our way but it is important to respect and honor our friends when things get tough between you.

Psychiatrist Dr. Gerald Jampolsky asks, “Do you want to be happy or do you want to be right?” Sometimes another person just can’t see our side, or is unable to give what we need. If you’ve tried to communicate and it doesn’t work, work things out as best as you can, even if it is to agree not to be in the same space at the same time for a little while. You can’t change them, but you can find another way to get your needs met. Be happy! People change.


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