RELATIONSHIPS: The Benefits of Negotiation

By Susan "Honey" Good

“In life, your don’t get what you deserve, you get what you negotiate.” 

So says negotiation consultant Dr. Chester Karrass, who has built a thriving business on his eponymous negotiating system. And so says my husband Sheldon Good, who built a thriving real estate auction business on his superb negotiating skills. But when it comes to negotiating, Shelly also goes Dr. Karrass one better with his favorite quote on the topic — namely “Everything is negotiable.”

And whether we think about it or not, everything is negotiable. All of us negotiate something—or many things—every day. When to eat? Who takes out the dog? What to wear—a silent negotiation with myself every morning, but a real and often trying negotiation for many parents every day. It’s negotiable! And negotiation is a learned skill. 

And anyone can become better negotiator, as I learned these past few days. 

While it’s easy to handle most of the “small stuff’ I mentioned above (kid’s sartorial choices are always hard), it’s the big stuff that can kill you. Ok, not literally, but definitely metaphorically. Family problems, relationships glitches, service issues gone wrong, closing a deal and more all depend on your negotiation skills and can lead to face-face-confrontation. 

And truth be told, I often find myself blurting out a “yes” that should have been a “no” and I bet you have too. After the fact, you know what you should have said. That “yes” should have been a “no,” or better yet “Let me get back to you.”

For all of the reasons above, I decided that I should take a course in the art of negotiation. 

By coincidence, a few weeks ago I was chatting with a friend on an entirely different topic when the word “negotiation” came up during the conversation. The man I was talking to said, “My wife took a remarkable course: How to be an effective negotiator.”

His words were music to my ears. I bombarded him with questions. “What’s the name of the company? Is it in Chicago? How long is the course? Is it expensive? And on and on and on.

This is what I learned, dear readers.

  1. The company is Karrass, a world leader in teaching the art of negotiation. Dr. Chester Karrass, who founded it 47 years ago, has an engineering degree from the University of Colorado, an MBA from Columbia University and a doctorate from the University of Southern California. He was a negotiator for the Hughes Organization before founding his namesake firm.
  2. It is located in 95 cities globally, including (luckily for me) Chicago.
  3. The cost for a two-day seminar is $1,195, including lunch and refreshments.  

When I hung up with my friend, I sat quietly with, my pooch, Orchid, breathing softly by my side, thinking about my needs and asked myself if I should sign up for the seminar. And in doing so, I channeled my personal mantra to help me decide what to do. 

“I want to be more confident in my family and business relationships.” 

Will I achieve this with better negotiating skills? I think so, but wanted to be sure. So I wrote down reasons why a course in negotiating would benefit me.

  1. I want to be comfortable with my decisions, not guilt-ridden. 
  2. I want to be thoughtful but strong in my decision-making process, and understand all the parameters and consequences of a decision when I have to negotiate with friends and acquaintances. 
  3. I want to be able to negotiate fairly yet firmly with my children when they confront me. Family emotions range from love to rage and everything in-between—and they run high. Becoming a skilled negotiator may help me prevent a family situation from getting out of control.
  4. I want to be an astute negotiator in my business transactions.

On a lighter note, I have no problems with Shelly, who is a skilled negotiator. He always puts my interests above all else. I am blessed. I put his interest above all else. He is blessed. And that begs the next question I ask myself: 

“Why do I need to further my skill in the art of negotiation?”

 And there are more answers than I suspected.

  1. I don’t like confrontation of any type. It makes me anxious and stressed.
  2. I don’t feel comfortable dealing with certain issues when I have to negotiate.
  3. I have family and business situations that require me to learn the skills required to be a fair and just negotiator.

So there you have my short tutorial on how to make a decision, but not negotiate. And I am assuming that my personal feelings are similar to yours. After all, we are mothers, wives, grandmothers, businesswomen and girlfriends. We wear the same hats and field the same problems of positive and negative confrontations that require the skill of negotiation.

And I believe that becoming skilled at negotiation will add to our inner style, for I am a firm believer that a woman’s inner style, her essence, reflects in her outer style. Our inner style is what makes us beautiful and confident, dear readers. So I definitely plan on taking a negotiation seminar this fall, either at Karrass or from Stanford University, which offers an online course titled “How to Get (More of) What You Want” for those who can’t attend classes in person.