It is the holiday season like no other.
Many people have been apart for almost two years and have so many “virtual” holidays that they yearn for physical presence this year.
Now that the opportunity for travel has resurfaced, so are social obligations – from trips to seeing family across the country to work gatherings and meeting up with friends. Between balancing the desire for contact to navigate a changing work environment, free time is again becoming less common for many of us.
This year, my husband and I are carefully deciding what to do and what not to do. For example, we’ve decided to stay home for Thanksgiving and have dinner with just us and our two boys, ages 12 and 14. We are planning to visit our single family for Christmas. We decided to host a party of our own, not because of pandemic concerns or supply-chain challenges but to avoid stress and overscheduling.
How did we reach these decisions? I applied the lessons from my academic study of bargaining and negotiation to my personal life. So, with another holiday season upon us, which may look a little different from last year for some, here’s how to interact with loved ones for a pleasant holiday season.
from theory to practice
As a professor, I have taught conversation to students and executives, published many scholarly articles and given many public lectures on the subject. But I had not thought of applying my academic expertise to my personal life.
Once I started doing this, I quickly realized that conversational concepts and skills can be used to not only get what you want, but make your family life happier overall. Can also be done to create.
The most important insight is that negotiation does not result in a winner and a loser. It can and should be beneficial for all parties.
win-lose vs win-win
Many negotiators only see distributive, or win-lose, possibilities. He has one sure thing in mind about which parties are fighting: If you win, I lose. As a result, much of the early academic literature and practical guidance focused on power. As you can imagine, this can be problematic for interactions with your family.
In contrast, the idea of integrated, or win-win, negotiations involves identifying outcomes that are good for both sides. In their 1981 book “Getting to Yes,” two Harvard professors for the first time popularized the idea that negotiations could result in a better position on both sides.
There are many ways to achieve unified dialogue, but here are three major ones:
trade-offs. Consider a couple sharing chicken for dinner. One way to share would be to cut the chicken in half and give each person an equal portion. This would be a distributive solution, as we are arbitrarily dividing the chicken between pairs, and if one has to get more, or win, the other will get less, or lose.
A unified agreement can be found by identifying trade-offs between the two parties. For example, it turns out that I like dark meat and my husband likes white meat. So I could give him all the white meat, and he could give me all the dark meat, and then we would both win.
connecting issues. Another way to get an advantageous solution is to change the scope of the conversation. For example, over the years my husband and I had conversations about where to take summer vacation. I wanted to go to the forests of Lake Tahoe, and he wanted to go to the casino in Atlantic City. As long as the scope of the talks remained focused on this one visit, it was impossible to satisfy both of us.
However, imagine that we expanded the conversation. For example, we can do a multi-year deal in which we alternate our destinations. Or I can commit to spending my winter vacation in Atlantic City in lieu of a summer vacation in Lake Tahoe. Or he can agree to let me choose a vacation destination if I allow him to host a monthly poker game at our house.
interests beyond positions. The third way to win a profit is to focus on interests rather than positions. When my husband and I were getting married, we had one of the strongest disagreements over our wedding cake. I wanted chocolate; He wanted vanilla.
After several rounds of debate, I finally asked why she wanted vanilla cake. He replied that the white cake was traditional and that he wanted the cake to be white as in the photographs. I told her that my whole family loves chocolate, and we want to have chocolate cake.
Once you move beyond the positions – vanilla vs chocolate – to underlying interests – picture cake vs eating cake – several integrated solutions become possible: white chocolate, a separate bride’s cake and groom’s cake, for photographs Using Photoshop etc.
Finally, we had a three-tier cake, with two large chocolate tiers and a smaller white tier that we fed each other for photos.
family negotiation strategy
So, how exactly should you interact with your partner, parents or kids to get what everyone wants during the holidays?
Be honest, not mean. In order to achieve win-win negotiations, all parties involved must be honest about what they want.
One study found that married couples come to the solution for less benefits than other negotiators because they want to make sure their relationship lasts. But simply accepting the other person’s requests is not the path to a win-win solution. Instead, each party needs to express what is important to them and why, and listen carefully to the preferences and arguments of their negotiating partner.
Explaining that I wanted chocolate cake to eat it and understanding that my husband wanted white cake for the pictures were important for us to come to a win-win agreement. If either of us had just agreed, we wouldn’t have been so happy.
make concessions. One of the hallmarks of negotiation is that no one gets everything they want. You need to be willing to make concessions, to sacrifice those aspects that are less important to you in order to get what is most important to you.
Although cleaning up after a poker game at our house isn’t a recreational idea for me, it’s worth it if I get a summer break.
be creative. Once you understand and accept each other’s needs, get creative about finding ways to meet them. This may involve brainstorming and accepting your partner’s off-the-wall ideas in the process.
Should we go to Monaco? What about an online poker account? How about a long weekend in Reno during our visit to Tahoe?
Make promises, not threats. Finally, a word about language. One way to keep the conversation constructive is to make promises – for example, if we both order chicken, I’ll trade your dark meat for my white meat – and to avoid dangers – if you won’t trade. , then I would surf and turf to order.
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As the holidays draw closer, remember to consider your interests, listen to the goals of your loved ones, and find beneficial solutions. Each family has a long history and looks forward to a long future together. Choose your battles and accept the other issues. You don’t need to win them all, just the important ones.
May your holidays be blissful and your conversations unified.
Editor’s note: This is an updated version of an article originally published on December 18, 2017.