Importance Of Negotiation In Relationships

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Context

10 years back, when someone mentioned the use of negotiation in relationships to me, I repulsed the idea. But, slowly I began to see the merit in the idea–esp. in Indian context.

Say the wife wants her husband to drop the kids to school a particular day. Husband can either agree or disagree–without much discussion. That would be the non-negotiation approach.

The other alternative is to talk a bit about it mutually (may be just a 5 minute conversation).

Such a conversation will help the husband assess how much his agreeing to her wife’s wish will mean to her. Will it mean a lot or will it mean a little?

If the husband discovers in that 5-min conversation that his dropping the kids that day will mean a lot to the wife, he may be able to agree!

What causes unfairness in relationships is that we often keep on acting without figuring how much our actions benefit the other person. For instance, in the above example, a devoted husband may keep on dropping the kids everyday thinking that it means a lot of the wife. He ends up sacrificing a lot of his happiness each day in order to gain assumed happiness for his wife. But what if, in reality, this sacrifice means only a little bit to her?

Negotiation helps by enabling both of them to talk and figure out the benefits of their actions to each other. It facilitates utility discovery and hence utility optimization..

Key Insight

‘Unfairness’ in relationships often arises when both parties are unclear about the benefits of their actions to each other. Negotiation helps discover these benefits!