the lost art of negotiation

Who hasn’t cringed at the words, “Mom, can I stay up just a little longer?”  Or, “Mom, can I take the car and drive to Mexico with my friends for spring break?”

Those might be completely different scenarios, but they can both be resolved by using the exact same technique.  It’s the art of negotiation, and I am the queen.

In my previous life as a business banker, it was no secret I knew how to negotiate with business owners, corporations, and executives.  I don’t think anyone who has known me for more than a few minutes would question my ability to negotiate my way through almost any situation.  And not just for myself.  My family considers my skills invaluable.  I have negotiated better prices for my sister on a number of occasions.   My mother took me with her furniture shopping so I could get her the best price at least once.  My aunt once drove to almost three hours, specifically for me to take her to garage sales, so I could negotiate her deals. And I even managed to negotiate a free year of cable thanks to my superior skills.  I have always been the one that gets put into the game when a price negotiation was required.  I’m like the clean up pitcher of the shopping circuit. 

After I managed to get a department store to lower a fixed price on an item I desperately wanted, my son told me I had a black belt in bullshit— and what mom doesn’t want to hear that?  I can’t help it, I take these things seriously. I’ve even made a car salesman cry (and I’m not talking about my ex-husband.)

Today’s negotiations started the minute I put on my favorite pants and discovered that they were a little more snug than the last time I’d worn them.  I managed to half convince myself they were only tight because of the dryer.  Everyone knows the dryer makes everything shrink a little.  You just have to wear it for a while so it will stretch back out.  Never mind that they aren’t made of stretchy cotton or that I only threw them in the dryer for a few minutes to chase off the wrinkles from being on a hanger.  Still, I had to allow that it was possible—although highly unlikely—it wasn’t the pants that had gotten smaller, but my butt that had gotten larger.  Even if it was only slightly.  So the negotiation turned in the direction of the kitchen and the sweets hidden within. 

The problem with negotiating with one’s self is it is far too easy to switch sides. I have been debating all day about cookies, pies and assorted other “non-essential” food items.  I won…or maybe I lost.  Either way, no sweets for me today. Oh, and no more Diet Coke…right after I finish what’s left in the fridge…cuz waste not want not, right?

See how good I am?  I even managed to beat the Diet Coke addiction with a few well placed arguments.  And it’s a good thing I am that good.  I have to engage in the most challenging of negotiations on a daily basis.  I have…


Ok, so they’re currently adult teenagers, but legal or not, living with teenagers is living a life of constant negotiations.  And when you are negotiating with teenagers you have to approach the task the same way you would an auction.  You have to start your bidding low, and let them try to drive you back up.  Such as with curfews. 

“Be home by eight-thirty!” 

See?  Bring that first offer in low.  Don’t give away the store right from the get-go.  Is eight-thirty an early curfew for a pair of sixteen or seventeen year olds?  Probably.  But if I had said be home at ten, they would have still come back with another offer.  They would have been pushing for eleven.  By starting with eight-thirty, I could give up nine o’clock and they felt like they’d won a battle.  I would have given them ten, but because I started at eight-thirty, they felt like they’d gotten over on me by coming in at nine!  And don’t forget to make it seem as though giving in was difficult or they’ll smell a false victory.  It was a sad day for me when my teenagers caught on to the logic, but by then, I’d already taught them a very valuable lesson. 

Now if I could only take my negotiating skills to the next level and convince my obnoxious rooster that seven o’clock is a perfectly good time to crow…rather than every fifteen minutes between the hours of midnight and seven. If I could somehow manage that, I may even make it into the record books or something.  I think even Donald Trump would bow down to my expertise if I could pull off that feat. 

Until the next time…I will be negotiating with my ducks for some nice duck eggs.

Copyright © 2000-2018, Erica Lucke Dean. All rights reserved. Any retranscription or reproduction is prohibited and illegal.
Posted on November 15, 2012 .