(We originally published this post in June of 2014, but as always, there are business communication lessons here that ALWAYS hold up.)
I spent the entire day yesterday with my five-year old son. We had quite a nice little Saturday. We woke up early, had breakfast together, and then went out for some man-style shopping. Home Depot was the highlight, for some tools. We then came home and spent several hours in the yard together. We cut down branches, did some planting, pulled out a few weeds, cleaned the garage. I use the term “we” rather loosely. My son did more directing and playing in his sandbox, while Dad did most of the work. But it was fine, and we had a great day together.
After a bunch of hours of this, I took Zach to the local frozen yogurt shop for a treat. He had earned it, and I’m pretty sure that the prospect of some fro-yo was greatly motivating his helpful demeanor all day. So we went, and I was under strict instructions from Mom not to overindulge him and to limit the number of toppings on his treat. We walk into the shop and immediately began the negotiating on what he could get. Zach made the initial offering at “four toppings, daddy.” I protested and said no to that. I countered with two toppings. Zach stuck with a hard line on four. I stuck to my own limit of two. We were at an impasse. But my little guy had a little trick up his sleeve. He stood there with his cup of topping-less frozen yogurt, looked up at me with his four-year-old sad eyes, and said “OK, daddy. Can we agree on three?” I melted a bit (Just as his fro-yo was beginning to do the same), and we compromised at three toppings for his chocolate frozen yogurt. He selected mini M&Ms, chocolate sauce and whipped cream. Everyone was happy.
And then, as he devoured his treat, and his face was covered with chocolate, he says to me, without even looking in my direction, “You know daddy… three toppings was what I wanted all along. I got what I wanted.”
Ouch… Out-maneuvered by a four-year-old.
Simple message today… plan out ahead of time what you want from your negotiations and business communications. Always have a goal. And then make sure you have a plan that will increase your chances of getting to that goal. Zach’s plan was pretty straightforward: ask for more than you are hoping for and be able to negotiate downward to a still-acceptable level; and stare at daddy with big blue four-year-old eyes, slightly glistening with (probably fake) tears.
A masterful performance by the little man, and a lesson to daddy to never let down his guard and to always be ready to negotiate without emotion at any time.
Have a great day.
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Photo: Liliana Fuchs