World’s Best Negotiators

And you thought YOU were the one in control! Who would you say are the best negotiators? Those who get their way (atleast most of time) no matter what the scenario might be or whom the scenario might be with? Children! I used to think I was in control until my toddlers started to speak.

Here goes a conversation I had with my 2yr old son yesterday morning:

 Me: Sweetheart, you can’t wear track pants EVERY day! Its jeans day today!

Son: Why are you not wearing jeans?

Me: I will change into them after my run.

Son: So I will change into my jeans after I come from school.

Me: Nope. I don’t think so. Let’s get moving, buddy.

Son: But plleeeaaassseee! I really like jeans. But they make me fall when I run with my friends and they hurt me when I climb up things in the playground.

Me: (Sigh!) Well, okay. Only today because the weather is nice and you’ll be playing out all day. Tomorrow we wear jeans!

Son: Ok!

This little munchkin, only about 1/3rd my size just talked me out of something and it was so easy. Now granted, I didn’t really put my foot down on the matter, but the kid had made his case and for all practical reasons, it was a bloody good one too!

Let’s not be fooled. These cute little people with their tiny fingers and toes, their adorable smiles and dimples can give any business executive a run for their money. They are master negotiators sans any form of training. The more I think about our conversation (and many other similar ones), the more I realize how beneficial some of these negotiating tactics can help us adults.

  1. The power of question. Children have absolutely no reservations with the use of the word, ‘why’. No matter what you might be talking about, you’ve got to be ready for the infamous, “But why?” My son instantly threw out a question at me putting me in a little bit of a defense mode. As adults, we listen mainly to reply with the hope that we are adding more intelligence.  We seem to be in a world where we suppress questions in fear of looking ‘dumb’ or weak.
  2. Know your audience. Children know exactly what strings they can pull with whom and how much leeway they will get with the different people in their lives. They also know who to team up with incase additional ammunition is needed and more often than not, they are the grandparents. My kids know whom to go to for that extra piece of chocolate or for that extra story before bed-time. They know you better than you might know yourself – what your limits are, what your weakness is, what your hot topics are, etc. They get inside your head and they understand you, your likes and dislikes.
  3. ‘No’ is just the beginning. Children are persistent and see the word, ‘No’ as just the beginning of their conversation. They expect it and are prepared with a counter response before you can even realize what the original request was. The interest thing is they typically start by aiming pretty high. “Can I have a chocolate bar? Maybe half? Maybe a tiny cookie? Maybe an M&M?” You feel good about yourself that you didn’t give into the bar and settled with something way less. The M&M was what your child had in mind the whole time.
  4. Solid explanation. My son phrased his explanation very cleverly. He clarified that it isn’t the jeans that was the problem but rather what he isn’t able to do when he wears them. He didn’t say that it hurts his waist or is short. But rather knew what to say to get the desired output.
  5. Know when to stop. My son could have made a case that tomorrow we were to meet a friend on a playdate at the park but he got what he wanted for now and decided to stop. He will deal with the next new scenario tomorrow. And so will I.

When you stop to really listen to your child, you realize that there truly is a thing or two that you can learn from him/her. They are constantly negotiating, making their cases and defending themselves with us all day long and most of the time we, adults, don’t even realize it.

 “Let’s never negotiate out of fear. But let’s never fear to negotiate.” – John. F. Kennedy


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