relationships Mandy Kloppers

Negotiate Your Way to a Healthy Relationship

share facebook twitter pinterest

Human relationships are complex. Envision a situation where one day you’re on the best terms but the next you can barely see face to face.  Even so, disagreements are not a reason to give up on a relationship, and in most cases, when handled properly, these conflicts can be dissipated.


If you have observed that your relationship has been on the rocks lately, negotiation can be the best way to solve your disagreements. Below are some negotiation tips to lead you to a healthy relationship.


Active Listening

If you have attended negotiation training before, you probably understand the place of effective active listening. When you listen, you show that you are perceptive, have respect for what the other person is saying, and so, value your relationship. Listening actively can also calm tension as you discuss and scrutinize an issue, break an impasse, and help bring you to a favorable solution.


Furthermore, actively listening allows you to share your thoughts and respond accordingly to the situation as opposed to just projecting your concerns on the other person.  Instead of loudly declaring your stance, you can have a concrete foundation for effective communication.


The Anchoring Bias

Imagine swaying a rocky conversation by making the first offer that sets the pace for the rest of the conversation. Achieving a reasonable conclusion when negotiating is possible when you employ the cognitive bias technique.

Anchoring is a cognitive bias you can exploit in negotiation and even in a relationship context. Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky first documented the effectiveness of this negotiation technique.


They experimented with a roulette wheel marked with integers between 1 and 100. The wheel was spun before all the contestants. The same contestants were then asked to estimate whether the percentage of the United Nations member countries from Africa was more or less than the number spun on the wheel.


Surprisingly, the participants who saw the number stop at ten approximated the number to be 25%, while those who saw the wheel stop at 65 guessed the number to be 45%.


In the experiment, you can see how random numbers impact people’s judgment dramatically. This tactic of negotiation is called anchoring and it can be used to lowball another person into a reasonable solution for the problem at hand.


When anchoring during a conflict, you can make an “offer” and then both sides have a basis to negotiate from this “initial offer” and, ultimately, find a solution. Be open to listening to the counteroffer. It may favor both sides, which makes the situation a win-win. You can train on how to negotiate with anchors in a way that allows both sides the flexibility to make concessions without necessarily losing.


Accepting Differences

People in a relationship can feel drawn to each other because they share values, passions, and similarities, and many will disregard profound differences that could lead to conflict.


The result of such ignorance in many cases is that one person may be dominating the decision-making and the other forced to compromise. In the end, this may hurt the relationship. The goal is not to compromise but rather to negotiate. So, accepting that you are different can be a starting point for two people to make mutually beneficial agreements.


For example, if you have religious differences, instead of trying to come together, you can undertake various personal projects of your interest. By accepting that you cannot agree on an issue, you can find an amicable solution that leaves both of you satisfied.


Look at the Situation from the Other Person’s Point of View

If you are in a hostile situation, you tend to:

  • Presume that when the other person acts a certain way, they are acting that way for the same reason as you tend to do.
  • Focus on the other’s poor behavior while ignoring your shortcomings.

These responses are instinctual, but they may not be accurate. If you find yourself in such a situation, it would be best to step outside yourself and look at the problem from the other side’s shoes.


To negotiate effectively, acknowledge the other person and let them know that you understand their concerns. While this is a subtle negotiation technique, reaffirming their perspective will help you de-escalate the conflict and come to a solution.


Avoid the Abilene Paradox Trap

The Abilene Paradox is a common teaching point in negotiation training courses. If you are unfamiliar with the concept, the paradox represents situations where group think does not match your interests.


For instance, you may have met with your partner at a party. Naturally, you may assume that they love to party, and you may even try to keep up with the lifestyle by partying each weekend, even if you don’t enjoy it. Interestingly, you may find out later that your partner is more of a homebody too, and may be following you to parties to keep you happy.


Instead of the silent sacrifice, early communication, and negotiation for a better solution to your Saturday nights could have spared you both a lot of wasted time and energy.


Avoid Keeping Score

Occasionally, you may find yourself making concessions, even in the healthiest of relationships. It is best to avoid keeping score. If you think that your partner “owes you one,” you may resent them.


In most cases, your partner should explicitly agree that they owe you. Anything less might be a miscommunication.


For instance, if you walk the dog one weekend for your partner, you cannot assume they ought to return the favor when your turn comes around. Rather, try negotiating terms with your partner before the following weekend if you want them to take your turn.



Mandy Kloppers
Author: Mandy Kloppers

Mandy is a qualified therapist who treats depression, anxiety, OCD, PTSD, trauma, and many other types of mental health issues. She provides online therapy around the world for those needing support and also provides relationship counselling.