Negotiating in love is similar to negotiating at work: cooperation is key.
Although the same basic principles for success apply, in an intimate relationship, getting what you need also requires influencing your partner in positive ways.
My Negotiations class at NYU Law School taught me a few valuable lessons. First, I could never work in law; hats off to those of you who are pursuing or practicing law. Second, you only get ahead with your “opposing party” when you come from a place of, ‘Let’s find a mutually agreeable solution and preserve our relationship long-term.’
Whether it is your boss, your partner or a potential employer on “the other side,” ultimatums and manipulation backfire eventually and a lasting and fulfilling relationship is harder to achieve using this approach. Zero sum tactics don’t work because they breed resentment and competition that necessitates a clear winner and loser.
Several key tenets hold true in any attempt to influence your partner positively:
1) Your partner must feel valued: When negotiating successfully in love, you have to take a “team” approach that makes your partner feel valued in the process. A “team” mentality means that you also take his perspective into account. During an argument or when you fervently disagree, taking your partner’s perspective may seem like a lot to ask but, as in all things, practice makes perfect.
So, how do you negotiate with respect and integrity in order to get what you need from your partner?
Let me back up.
2) A solid foundation of trust and a shared vision are paramount: While it is true that you don’t get what you don’t ask for, the groundwork for the ask must already exist. If trust and a shared vision of what your life together will look like is not already established from previous clear and explicit discussions, it will be harder to influence your partner to share your perspective.
3) Is it a need or a want? Whether you are in a long-term relationship or married, before approaching your partner, question whether what you’re asking is something you need or want. It is all too easy to confuse needs and wants. “I need to feel heard. I need to feel appreciated. I need to spend more quality time with you. I want to go on vacation. I want to try this new restaurant. I want to move into a bigger place.” Do you see the difference?
A need is a core part of your DNA, a requirement for sustaining and improving your relationship. If what you need is actually a want, you must ask yourself why you are unable to provide that want for yourself.
Your partner is not responsible for your happiness, you are.
Sure, if you’re with the right person, he will be invested in your happiness and be wiling to provide not only what you need but also what you want, within reason, of course. However, he is not required to provide all your wants.
Once you have determined a need, figure out a good time to ask for it in clear, simple and effective ways.
4) Honor differences: Men and women think differently when it comes to love and relationships. No matter how powerful and successful a man, when it comes to love, he needs some things spelled out clearly. Don’t beat around the bush to ask for what you need. Be clear. Give concrete examples.
“We have been so busy lately with work that I feel like I haven’t had enough quality time with you. Can we set up a date night in the next couple of days, just us two? I’ve wanted to try this new restaurant and if we pick a date, I can make the reservation for us. That would really make me happy. How does that sound to you?”
5) Eighty percent of your communication is non-verbal: How you ask, your tone, your body language and the timing all matter. Would you approach your boss for a raise on a day when she is crazed with back-to-back meetings and is in a bad mood? You would evaluate the situation and find a suitable time to approach her for a chat on a day when she is in a good mood. You would highlight why you love your job, what you’re good at and how a raise is in the best interest of the team.
Similar tactics apply for your greatest investment, your intimate relationship. If your partner has had a long day at work and is in a sour mood when he gets home, you might want to table “the talk.” When a man hears, “We have to talk,” it rarely implies something positive in his mind.
Additionally, if your words sound nice but your body language indicates something else, for instance, you are rolling your eyes as you speak, your body language will upstage what you say.
Emphasize how your partner fulfilling your need will help the ‘team.’
“I know we’ve been together for a few years and I’m really enjoying our life. You make me happy and I think we can continue growing together toward creating a life that we envision with one another. I think the next step for us is to move in together. I’d love your thoughts on this and we don’t have to decide today but I do want to start this conversation. Can we set aside some time in the coming days to talk about this?”
6) Be flexible: You don’t want to corner someone into giving you an answer right there and then. The truth is, you’ve been thinking about this topic for days or weeks but he is just hearing of it, maybe for the first time. Show some flexibility. Successful negotiation is coming to terms that mutually benefit both parties. Sometimes that means coming to an innovative solution you couldn’t imagine before you started the conversation. Be open-minded.
These six principles of effectively negotiating in love, if practiced, will create the highest return of investment for relationship success. However, we must first understand and accept that we cannot get what we do not ask for.
Ask for what you need: Living your best life means going after your dreams relentlessly and without reservation, as if your life depended on it – whether your dreams are of your ideal mate or ideal job. Numerous studies show that when applying for a job, a woman typically will do so only if she thinks she is 110 percent qualified for the position. This is not necessarily the best approach.
Your choices determine the trajectory of the rest of your life. Live boldly and fearlessly.
The flip side is that in love, there is always an element of risk: of rejection; of getting hurt; of a partner not meeting your needs; of being with the wrong person. Risk is par for the course in love. Do not live life so comfortably that you fail to pursue your dream relationship or ask for what you need. You have to be your best advocate in life, your career and especially in love.
Accept the risks. Stretch beyond your comfort zone and relentlessly pursue what you want in love. It will be worth it.
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