While most of us confine our negotiating attention to business and financial transactions, we shouldn’t ignore the negotiating opportunities within the family. Many holidays seem to provide more family time along with opportunities to use negotiating techniques or influence strategies for work in the family context.

The Alternate of Choice: It never fails, the ball game seems comes on the TV just as the holiday meal is (finally) ready. You can’t do both, but employing the negotiator’s edge by asking an alternative of choice question could keep everyone happy. Early on (and while complimenting the cooks in the kitchen) simply ask, “Hey, the game is on at 4:00, do we want to eat before – say 3 o’clock or should we wait until after the game – say 6:30?” Either choice has the opportunity to keep everyone happy. Good negotiators can even slant the choices toward their preference. It would sound like this, “Hey, the game is on at 4:00. Do we want to eat before – say 3 o’clock or should we wait until after the game – say 6:30? If we can wait until after the game, I’ll recruit the guys to do the dishes?”

The Preemptive Bracket: Every family seems to have at least one member with multiple ailments or a myriad of concerns. That is sad enough, but the worst thing is that each of these ailment and concerns must be fully and extensively detailed upon being asked the routine (rhetorical) question, “How are you?”. Good negotiators anticipate such situations, after all they happen every get together. They offer a verbal preemptive bracketing message that sounds like, “Good to see you. I hear you’re having trouble with _______. Let’s make time to sit down after _____ so I can hear all about it. I know _(another relative)__ will want to be in on that conversation too. Can we all plan a time to all get together?” The result is the complainer knows they’ll get a full hearing but they also know it has to wait until the designated audience is fully assembled. Sometimes that just doesn’t happen.

The Outcast Among Us: Most families have one member who just isn’t embraced or fully integrated into the clan. The reasons for this can be many. It could be jealousy, it could be hard feelings stemming from an earlier occurrence or it could be that someone isn’t offering the family support others think they should. Whatever the reason, good negotiators practice their skills by soothing feelings and spreading good will at the right time. Think of those situations where everyone is assembled and everyone’s attention is on a central figure. I could be just before a mealtime prayer or when someone is singled out for an announcement or acclaim before the entire clan. It is at this moment the good negotiator mentions and praises both the outcast and the one or ones most hostile toward the outcast in front of the family. Praise and recognition forces parties to live up to their billing.

Other Family Strategies

1. Don’t forget to ‘flinch’ any negative comments that you might hear from or about others.

2. Control expectations by sharing that this is a good time to dispense with negative comments and “enjoy the blessings and diversity” that we have within the family.

3. Use tie-down questions. Example: “You don’t want to be taking that outside in this weather, do you?”

4. Trade-Off “If we all agree to do the dishes, I’ll bet we could convince the girls to delay dinner until after the game. What do you think?”

Negotiating skills apply anywhere there are human interactions. Aren’t family gatherings fertile ground for some amazing interactions?

Good negotiators are the low key stars that just can’t turn off their negotiating capabilities. They use those skills to enhance family gatherings, maximizing the good times and minimizing the rough spots.