Saturday, March 5, 2011

Through Bathroom Doors

by Kris Pitcher

I had a quick conversation with a young lady the other day about her negotiation skills. It got me thinking about the application to our pursuit of healthy lifestyles. She was bantering through a closed bathroom door with her mother in the locker room. She wanted something mom wasn't going to give her...for good reason. But I can't help but stir things up...especially with teen age girls (when I don't have any).

I asked her how her negotiation skills were. She said, "Not good." (BIG teen aged sigh.) She said, "I even offered to make her a cake!" I laughed knowing mom can't have a cake - she's training for a bodybuilding contest. I said, "What about something she would like, like house cleaning?" Confusion..."Well, THAT doesn't sound very fun!" she laughed back at me.

See, negotiation isn't about giving something you want to get something you want. It's about making a trade to get something you want. But in order to do that successfully you need to know what the other person wants. The cake was really about what the girl wanted.

Negotiation for some is an intuitive art, and for others it's a skill which can be learned and refined. Being able to negotiate is important to staying true to your own goals and plans whether you're out with others...or you're talking yourself into your morning cardio. Negotiation at its core is really an attitude: everything is negotiable all the time.

There are four fundamental elements: preparation; information exchange; explicit bargaining; and commitment. In preparation we are learning information about the issue or situation. We are also thinking about what will enhance our leverage (certainly not cake for a dieting competitor). We're also building rapport - which means being cooperative and even asking for advice from our "opponent" about resolution. Another part of preparation is the when/where/how will you negotiate (maybe not through a closed bathroom door, just saying). Finally we want to think about what our goals are, what do we want to accomplish from the negotiation?

As we begin bargaining we need to be prepared to make our opening offer, and then our subsequent offers. What concessions will you make? Remember we're making a trade. We must be willing to give something the other person wants. We are also looking for the best resolution to the issue. There is likely a creative way to create a win-win.

Commitment is about closure. Reaching a decision and implementing it. Keep in mind it's a process of compromise. Assume you'll end up somewhere in the middle of your ideal outcome. Reaching an agreement isn't an exact science or number - think of "fair" as a range. House cleaning...not super fun, but right now it's just the thing to leverage what you want from mom. It's what she needs. And it probably won't kill you.

Sharpening our skills makes us confident negotiators. It's becoming a lost art...but something this young lady can work on not only to get what she wants, but also to communicate what she needs in a better way. Are you communicating what you need in order to get what you want? Be confident to voice what you need and negotiate your way toward what you want. Go get it!  

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