One of the many things I learned from my father was the fine art of negotiation. I like that word, “negotiation,” but unfortunately it has been replaced by the trending “conflict resolution” phrase which, I feel, immediately puts the process in a hostile position by using the word “conflict”. So, although my LinkedIn profile shows one of my skills, as well as a certification in “conflict resolution,” I still like to use the word negotiation.
From my father, I learned that both parties most walk away from the negotiation with something (hence, it is not a process of bullying one party into submission). And I learned that it is just as important to know when to walk away from the negotiation table.
I feel I do this well. I enter into a negotiation with trust and confidence that the other party is entering into the process with the same attitude. I find that I know when to “walk away” under two circumstances: I may find early in the process that the other party does not want to truly engage in the spirit of negotiation—that is, the other party just wants to bully me into accepting their position. I do not tarry long with this type of engagement. I determine a time (say, 10 minutes) in which I will try to calm, reassure, and do whatever to tone down any hostilities, but if that does not work, I excuse myself stating that I see there is nothing to discuss.
The second scenario when I may “walk away” may come well into what appears to be a negotiation in which the discussion is productive. I may find, however, that what is ultimately being offered me is something that will make me feel as though I am being significantly short-changed and that I am receiving little in exchange for the other side gaining much. I also may recognize that the offer proposed by the other party will make me feel belittled or even hostile towards that party, thus harming me as well as burning the bridges with that party.
Walking away is really hard when one is so very close to obtaining a successful outcome. I have to remind myself to stand my ground, and I do.
Here is a story that demonstrates my father’s gift for negotiation. Enjoy!
Eau de Grunt
My sister and I discovered perfume at the same time, that early adolescence time when everything is so important and so fragile. We rode our bikes to the downtown Woolworth’s and purchased a HUGE bottle of perfume for $1. What a deal.
Upon returning home we were quick to pour the fragrant liquid on us, virtually soaking ourselves. We were delighted. We were cool.
My sister and I were each upstairs in our bedrooms when my dad came home. My mom went to greet him as I heard him exclaim, “What is that terrible smell?”
“The girls have decided to wear perfume, honey,” my mom replied in a soothing voice.
“It stinks.” I think he just may have been gagging when he stated this. “What is the perfume, Eau de Grunt?”
“You need to be careful with them.” My mom issued a gentle warming.
The following evening my dad came home and start muttering again about the stench as my sister and I held our collective breaths. But nothing was said, until. . .
Early on Saturday morning, my dad summoned my sister and me to come to talk to him in our family room. My sister and I prepared ourselves for what we were sure would be one of those parental show-downs, in which the parent thinks that they know everything and the poor child is, once again, short-changed and misunderstood.
“Your mother tells me you want to wear perfume,” our dad started.
Here we go, I thought to myself. My adolescent back was up. I prepared myself for battle.
“Did you know,” my dad continued, “that perfume has notes?”
I think I can speak for my sister when I say that we were both stunned. What could my dad, an aircraft engineer, possibly know about perfume? My mom did not wear any!
“There is a ‘top note,’ and that is the note that gives the first impression of the fragrance, the first one that is noticed,” our dad started.
I nearly keeled over with what truly appeared to be my dad’s knowledge. He continued.
“Then that note fades and the perfume settles into what is referred to as the ‘heart note’ and that is the note that stays the longest on the wearer and is the one that is noticed by others.”
WOW. This was more information than I ever imagined. I was captivated.
“Finally,” he continued speaking to his young audience of two, “there is the ‘base note’ the one that is remembered by both the wearer and the one who smells it.”
He paused, letting us absorb that information.
“Perfumes are very personal and should be worn with a hint of mystery. It should be of high quality, one that is made with the understanding of all the notes, and just the tiniest bit should be worn. Spraying the air with a perfume and walking through its mist is one way to ensure that you are wearing just a hint of the perfume.
Oh, gee, I would have to get a spray pump for our perfume, since it just came in a jug. My mind was reeling.
My dad’s voice took an authoritarian turn as he then said, “I would like you to stop wearing the perfume you have purchased at Woolworth’s.
There. I knew it! I knew it! I knew it! It was a trap. But before I could open my mouth, my dad continued.
“As you know I go to Paris every month on business. The French are known for their fine perfumes. On my next trip, I will get each of you a sampling of perfumes for you to try keeping in mind what I have told you about perfume. Ultimately you will find the right perfume for you and then I will make sure you have that.”
Well, what choice did we have? We agreed and walked away, both stunned and a bit intrigued. Who knew about notes and the French deal with perfumes?
Then the magic happened. Lancome, Shalimar, and others. I fell in love with “Shocking” by Schiaparelli.
And peace reigned in the Todd household because two daughters were thrilled to be inducted into the mystique of wearing just the right perfume and their father was able to take a breath of fresh air when he came home from work at night.
And I learned a valuable lesson in negotiation which has stuck with me until this day.