Negotiating in Hard Times

Negotiating in Hard Times

In the business of getting through life, we often take for granted that we need to work with all kinds of people, in all sorts of circumstances.  When things are going “swimmingly” easy and comfortably, we don’t think that we are negotiating.  It is often assumed negotiations only occur when important and serious things are happening.  Do you remember the last time you bought something important like a car or a house?  You and your spouse got yourself all psyched up because it was “negotiating time”!

What is often overlooked is that while getting ready to meet with the selling party, you had to negotiate with your spouse as to when you were going to go or which outfit you were going to wear.  For example, you might have said to your partner, “When should we leave for our appointment” or, “should I wear the red shirt or the blue blouse”?  The fact that you were getting input from your spouse, is in fact a negotiation.

If you are reading this and are over 20 years of age, you have already developed some impressive skills in terms of getting along with people.  The challenge for most of us is that when we think something can impact our lives significantly, we start to take the situation very seriously.  One of my favorite books, “How to Negotiate by Caring, but not That Much” by Herb Cohen (Grand Central Publishing, 2006), says that the worst person to negotiate for you is you!  This is because as the stakes go up, we lose the requisite ability to keep calm and cool because we take ourselves too seriously, that is, we care too much.

The adage, “We cannot see the forest for the trees” refers to “caring too much”.  Another saying, “When you are up to your ass in alligators, its easy to forget the objective was to drain the swamp!” also refers to losing one’s way.

In my new service as a Chartered Financial Divorce Specialist, my goal is to help people get through this emotionally charged transition time.  As an outsider, my ability to help is enhanced because I have no skin in the game.

In conclusion, in the book, “Getting to Yes, Negotiating Agreement without Giving In”, (Penguin 2nd edition, 1991) authors’ Roger Fisher, William Ury and Bruce Patton list 4 things that are necessary to help get to a “win-win” outcome.  These 4 points are:

  1.  Separate the people from the problem.
  2. Focus on interests, not positions.
  3. Invent options for mutual gain.
  4. Insist on using objective criteria.

If you are going through a hard time, like a separation or a divorce, you are doing a good thing by hiring experts in this field.  It is prudent to be surrounded by professionals who can give you good, level-headed advice!