Father’s Day signifies it’s summertime! That means days at the beach, backyard BBQs, relaxing in the pool, and enjoying time with friends and family. It also means that my two teenage daughters will test every ounce of negotiating skill that I have. From conversations around driving them places or staying out late to dying their hair or buying things, there’s no shortage of asks this time of year. Throughout, I’ve tried to follow some simple guiding principles that have helped me keep the peace, my sanity, and all of us in each other’s good graces.
Let me caveat everything I’m about to share with the following: I’m not a perfect parent nor do I have it all figured out. I feel like I have more misses than hits. But like most parents, I learn from my experiences and try to get better the next time. So please take the following with a grain of salt, use what you like, and disregard what you don’t.
With that disclaimer out of the way, here’s what has worked for me . . .
Know what matters. One of my daughters wanted to color her hair purple for the summer. When my wife first told me this, I was not overly ecstatic after all purple hair is not how I see my baby girl, and I was concerned about how others might judge her (or me, if I’m being really honest). As my wife reminded me, it’s only hair, it’s only for the summer, and who cares what others think about her hair color? She was right. It’s the same thing we tell clients in any negotiation: Know what matters most and don’t fret about the rest. (BTW - her hair turned out looking pretty good.)
When in doubt, ask questions. I’ve gotten more in the habit of asking “why?” and presenting hypotheticals. This was important for me, because when I’m asked a question and I don’t quite know the ramifications of my answer, or when I don’t know what I’m really agreeing to, I have a tendency to just say, “No.” Instead, I started asking questions like, “Why is this important to you?” And I posed hypotheticals to see what the impact might be for me: “Just suppose I did that for you, how could you help us in return?” This really helped me to better understand the ask, formulate a response, and answer accordingly (and sometimes the answer was still “no”).
There’s nothing wrong with quid pro quo. We regularly teach dealmakers to make trades. I do the same with my kids. More often than not, when they ask for something, I’ll trade them for it. For instance, if they want money, I trade getting a chore done. I think it helps teach them that there’s a cost to most things in life. Moreover, it also helps weed out what’s really important to them.
Call out the good behavior too! As a negotiator, I tend to pick apart all the things that are not working with a deal or focus only on the remaining gaps. If I’m not careful, I can be that way with my daughters too. Whether it’s with your kids or a client or a vendor, it’s good to call out what is working. This will help to reinforce the good behavior and encourage more of it.
With all of that said, I’m sure my daughters will teach me some new things this summer, and I’ll have to make some adjustments. But for the time being, the above has been working for me and I hope it helps you too. So before the summer ends, I’m going to focus on the good life and enjoy it while I can.