In healthy relationships, partners are able to talk through disagreements and find solutions that feel good to each of them. But occasionally an issue arises that is difficult to resolve. In this case, effective negotiation skills are essential if you and your partner want to make solid decisions that you both feel good about. Strong negotiation skills will help you navigate through conflict and strengthen your relationship.
Negotiation is not the act of making another person wrong; it is an exploration of each partner’s position with the ideal goal being to find a mutually acceptable solution. The benefit of negotiation is that it will give both of you as much of what you want as possible, while creating a structure in which you can find solutions and learn about how to compromise and communicate effectively.
Many people avoid conflict because they lack negotiation skills. This kind of avoidance will only lead to resentment, which will ultimately lead to more distance in your relationship. Healthy relationships exist when two people know how to resolve their differences in a mutually satisfying manner; negotiation is the healthy way to create this kind of resolution.
How to Negotiate With Your Partner
Establish ground rules for the negotiation. For example:
- No yelling
- No blaming
- No name-calling
Describe the disagreement. What is the issue to be resolved?
- Take turns expressing both your concerns and desires about the disagreement.
- Ask questions of each other to gain more clarity of your partner’s feelings and point of view.
- Brainstorm solutions:
- One partner proposes a solution and explains why it works for them.
- The other partner responds and explains why this works for them or not.
- If it doesn’t work, explain why and suggest another solution.
- Work on finding ways to make it easier for your partner to say “yes”.
- Repeat this process until an agreement is reached.
- Determine milestones and decide who will do what and when it will be done.
- Decide how long you will try this solution to see if it is working for the two of you.
- Set a time to come together and evaluate the plan. If it didn’t work out as well as you both had hoped, each of you should suggest a way that you would like to see things done differently and repeat the above process.
- It is important to remember that there is no such thing as a perfect solution. Trial and error is part of the process. A solution is agreed to, put into place and tested so that each partner has the opportunity to see how it feels. Setting a time to come back together to evaluate the way each person feels about the solution is important to maintain the feelings of trust that good negotiation creates. In fact, this is exactly how trust is built.
Learning effective negotiation skills requires practice and patience. The payoff however, is a loving relationship where you and your partner will feel honored and listened to. By learning how to successfully negotiate with one another, the intimacy and trust in your relationship will improve. You and your partner will truly be a team that can face all of the challenges that come your way.