I met an old friend of mine for dinner the other night. He seemed really upset about something. I kept pressing for details, but he didn’t want to upset my seemingly good mood. I have been onÂ an interesting diet lately, and many people have been telling me that I look like I’ve lost weight, so I’ve been able to act a little happier than normal. But finally, my friend caved andÂ told me his problem.
Turns out he and his wife had been planning on taking a vacation as soon as they could get their respective vacation times at their jobs to coincide. Their bigger plan is to take on last vacation together, kind of like a second honeymoon (even though they’ve only been married 2 years) beforeÂ starting to buildÂ a family.Â Seems that they take a pragmatic approach. Get married. Save money. Have kids.
“So what’s the problem?” I asked. “You guys sound like you’re really together! You guys are able to plan your life together, andÂ make your plans that that you an easily achieve them. You are a lot better than most people. Most people shoot first, then maybe think about aimingÂ in couple weeks. What gives?”
After my friend explained his problem to me, I understood. It seems that they both had their respective hearts set on a specific vacation place. And they both assumed that the other personÂ had agreed to go to their place. And when they sat down to plan theirÂ fun, they realized that theyÂ weren’t on the same page.Â And since they both kind of viewed this as aÂ ‘last vacation together’ kind of thing,Â neither of them wanted to budge.
WhichÂ is interesting in and of itself. Most peopleÂ can make plans, and then follow through.Â ButÂ we can run into problemsÂ when you don’t communicate well with othersÂ who will be involved inÂ those plans. It’s likeÂ when other people don’t object,Â we assume that they will go along with us. I reminded my friend about this, asÂ raising a kid requiresÂ that you be flexible and communicate well. I asked my friend that since they were both guilty ofÂ the same thing,Â if theyÂ could compromise.
“What do you mean, compromise?” My friend asked. “I want to go here, and sheÂ wants to go there. They are totally different. One personÂ has toÂ lose for the other to win.” Aha. I thought I saw the problem.
I was reminded of aÂ business negotiation seminar IÂ took.Â We would role play being different business situations, and practiceÂ these negotiation skills.Â For example, a UnionÂ Boss would want more health benefits, moreÂ vacation time, and higher pay. The Business Manager would want to save money wherever possible. The trick in being a negotiator, was to keep asking “What’s important about that?”Â Until you got a point where the Union Boss and the Business Manager could find a solution that would satisfy bothÂ of their respective deeper needs.Â Â
For example, the Union Boss’s underlying concern was that theÂ workers would realize that the company wasÂ serious about taking care of them, as the increases in health benefits and wages were really only symbolic. And the BusinessÂ Manager was concerned withÂ the long term growth of the company. AsÂ a ‘pretend’ negotiator,Â IÂ explained to the Union BossÂ that the more stable the Business manager thought the future of the company was, the more willing he’d be to extend their long term contracts. And I explained to the Business Manager that by giving just a little bit of a raise, they would be much more willing to lock in that rate if it were for an extended contract period.
It was an interesting seminar that taught a lot about negotiating, and the importance of communication. Especially when you are able to find out what’s important to the people you care about, so when you make plans for the future, you can be sure to involve everyone.
I explained this to my friend, andÂ we actually role played a few scenariosÂ between him and his wife.Â After aÂ few practice rounds,Â he was convinced that they would be able to find a new placeÂ which would satisfy both their vacations needs for their second honeymoon.Â
They invited me over to dinner a few days later. I tepidly asked them about their vacation, hoping I wasn’tÂ precluding myself from any future dinners by starting world war three.
They both immediately broke into huge grins. Aha! I thought to myself. Maybe they would at least give me partial credit for solving their marital problems. Where would they go? Greece? Italy? Mexico? Maybe they’d let me house sit. They have a really nice, reallyÂ HUGE flat screen HD TV.
“We canceled our vacation!”
“We decided to put the money into an extra room. We’re building a nursery!”