The Power of Negotiation in Romantic Relationships: 10 Tips to Improve Your Skills
Negotiating is not just a skill for the business world or politics. It’s a valuable tool for managing conflict in our romantic relationships too, and it has enormous power to help couples build happier and more fulfilling relationships. Here we cover some tips to develop strong negotiation skills, supporting greater harmony and happiness in your relationship.
Handling disagreements with your partner can be challenging, even frustrating and disheartening at times. Negotiated solutions can make people feel more committed to their partner and better about the relationship. The first step to opening the floor to healthy negotiation – and a more harmonious process – is to remember that you’re on the same team. You both want to be happy and achieve outcomes that are satisfying.
Start viewing your conflict as a cooperative game, in which you both can brainstorm strategies, rather than as a competitive game in which someone loses and someone wins. This requires a joint effort, in which you both work on finding solutions that feel fair, facilitating win-win situations.
10 tips to help you successfully negotiate with your partner
- Respect your partner’s opinions, even if you’re not in agreement.
- Listen. Let your partner talk and practise active listening; don’t just wait for your turn. You can rephrase, nod and make eye contact to let your partner know you’re paying full attention. Avoid looking at your personal devices (e.g. phone).
- Be honest and open. Voice your inner thoughts. Consider coming to the discussion with written notes – this can help you stay focused and consistent.
- Express appreciation and gratitude. Showing how grateful you are helps build a relationship and increases positivity.
- If needed, take some time out. If you or your partner is excessively anxious or angry, hold off for a few hours and begin the process again when everyone involved is calm.
- Discuss specific behaviours instead of personality traits. For example, say “You didn’t do the dishes when it was your turn. Could we talk about that?” instead of using generalizing phrases like “You’re always so disorganized”. This will make communication clearer and more precise.
- Stick to the original problem. It’s easy to fall into the trap of using specific conflicts as opportunities to express our general frustrations. This only fuels anger and undermines negotiations. Try to limit conversations to the issue at hand.
- Use a number scale. Terms like “really” or “very” often make it hard to understand someone’s intentions, the intensity of their feelings, or the level of importance of an issue to them. The number scale goes from -10 (the worst thing that can happen) to +10 (the best thing imaginable). Discuss different situations with your partner and give each a number. Now you both know what a “-6” or a “+8” means for each person.
- Consider compromises. Keep an open and flexible mind to alternative solutions. Remember to keep it equal and fair for both people and understand some things can’t be compromised (e.g. core values, spiritual beliefs, family). After compromising, avoid assuming your partner “owes you one”. Either compromise freely, with no expectations, or be clear about your intentions of repayment in the future.
- Set – and keep – your boundaries. As important as it is to respect your partner, you should respect yourself as well. Sacrificing your own needs is not healthy, and giving something without being truly comfortable will not solve any problems. Stay true to your own needs, desires and emotions!
Remember that your relationship should be based on equality. Both of you should feel that your perspectives, needs and emotions are being taken into consideration during the negotiating process. By engaging in fair and respectful negotiation as a couple, you can come to disagreements with a sense of “we’re in this together” and feel more empowered to find solutions that really do work for both of you.
How would you rate your negotiation skills in your romantic relationship? Which of the above tips would you like to try out? If you find this article helpful, feel free to share it with your partner!
Thanks to Sara Nobrega for her contribution to this article.