How to better negotiate with Asian parents? The title is misleading because the basis of this article can be applied to everyone and anyone you converse with – even a 3-year-old child. Although not everyone may be easy to negotiate and not all negotiations will go your way, the context of this article is to give you a mental and emotional advantage when communicating with others. This way, you can walk away from the conversation without feeling defeated.
When we think of negotiations, we typically think of workplace conference table issues, but realistically we are always in negotiations with people, every day, even at home. Negotiation is a conversation that is aimed towards an agreed outcome. So, that discussion you had with your significant other over what you should have for dinner tonight? A negotiation. Those conversations with your kids about bedtime? Also, a negotiation. And that feeling you have inside, the “I need to escape for a weekend where no one talks to me” feeling? Positively a negotiation. When you’re trying to reach an agreement with yourself or someone else, you’re in negotiations. If you want a “yes” or a “no,” you’re negotiating.
Note that this is not a foolproof method to use in all situations. Just like a workplace boardroom – sometimes you just can’t close a deal because the gap between what you value and what your opponent value is too big to bridge. And that’s life.
The goal behind effective and successful negotiations is to get what you want – or at least close to – when the situation is right, by creating the illusion that your opposition is in control and giving the perception of mutual gains—you’ll be in a win-win situation. It is also for you to build a good reputation with integrity, making it easier for the next negotiations.
Take Your Ego Off the Table.
This first step on how to negotiate with Asian parents is the most important step. It sets the precedence for the tone you’ll carry out during negotiations.
It’s normal for us to think of negotiations as a battle to win arguments, have others see our point of view, and come to our side of the table – this method is ego-driven. While negotiation battles with the ego may sometimes give you a win, it’s manipulative and not as effective, as results typically include tension and resentment.
Successful negotiations require an open mind and a result-driven attitude where anxiety is mitigated, and both parties are understood and validated. It also builds a trust-based relationship for the next negotiation you’ll have with this person.
Taking your ego off the table also allows you not to be reactive to someone else’s opinions. The more reactive and defensive you are within negotiations, the more conflict and anger to battle through. Chances are, the negotiation will come to a halt before anything gets worked out due to the hostility and damaged egos. By taking away the ego, you’ll remain result-driven, and your energy will be focused on finding strategies and tactics to get that ‘yes’ efficiently and peacefully.
Identify the Root Problem(s).
There’s always a root issue. Sometimes during negotiations, we think that the person we’re talking to is our root issue. Or we may think that we’re talking about the same problem but realistically our opponent may be worried about something else that’s holding them back from focusing on current negotiations.
Look past the person talking to you and carefully listen to what they’re trying to put on the table. By doing so, you’ll be able to identify their concerns and worries. Then, you can focus on solving the issue(s), rather than solving the person themself.
For the Sake of Your Sanity, Enter Their Reality.
Generally, humans all want to be understood and heard – and you’re included in this. Let’s use you for an example, I bet the more understood you feel, the less reactive you’ll be. Because what’s left for you to fight about? I’m willing to even further that bet and say that even if I don’t agree entirely with your point of view, as long as I wholeheartedly understand where you’re coming from, you’ll feel respected enough to hear my point of view.
By understanding our opposition’s personality and mindset, then listening without reacting, we can see their worries and concerns from their reality – doing this doesn’t necessarily mean that we agree with them, but it makes it easier for us to adjust our negotiations to what’s real in their world. This, my friend, is empathy at its finest and is the key to all effective communications. So instead of trying to force them to accommodate your reality, start negotiating in a way that will make them think you’re adapting to theirs.
It’s also significantly harder to obtain a “yes” from someone when their concerns and worries are not addressed in a satisfying way. This is why entering a person’s reality is so important to solve a problem cooperatively. Once you address their concerns in a way that satisfies them, it’ll be easier for you to get that “yes” in return because their concerns are related to your issue. And it doesn’t matter if you see it that way or agree with it; it’s their reality of the situation, not yours.
Ask for compassion empathy in return when you think that your opposition cannot see your reality by using nonaggressive questions like “how am I able to…?” or “what does this look like for me…?” This form of questioning forces your opposition to emotionally relate to your emotional pain and rationally help remedy it.
Keep Your Emotions in Check but Have Emotional Empathy
Because humans are motivated by emotions it is very important to know your opponent’s level of emotional maturity and don’t assume that your parents (or anyone else that is in a position of authority) are emotionally mature just because they’re ‘parents’. Whether we are aware of it or not, our emotional sensations drive our thought process. So having a high level of empathy towards another person’s distressing emotions will allow you to be highly attuned and sensitive to the well-being of another person and adjust your reasonings to their level of rationale.
Keep your emotions in check, because it can cause you to lose objectivity in negotiations. It can control or blind you. You could become angry or frustrated or enter the process being too attached to the outcome. Try also not to let your opposition’s emotions get to you. Take a break or a step back. Ask yourself, “why am I getting upset?” You may need to practice ways to detach from the deal or decide if it’s the right time to be entering negotiations.
Lead with Open Questions
The best negotiators know leading with questions, whether at home or asking for a promotion in the office, gets them the best results. But so often, when negotiating with family—particularly when emotions are high—we start the conversation with an assumption or a judgment instead.
When we change the conversation and lead with open questions like “How can we work together to solve this problem?” and “Tell me what this means to you?” we open people up to helping us discover what is holding them back from giving you that ‘yes’ so that we can create a better solution.
Closing the Deal
When proposing a solution to a problem, you’ll have the highest chance of success when you show the other person how it helps them, too. It looks like, “Here’s what I’m proposing, and here’s how we all benefit.” Pitch your proposal in a way that it meets their wants and needs and show that you’ve taken the time to care for their emotions and concerns. Because during negotiations, there’s no denying that people care less about what you want, and more about what you can do for them.
Although there is a time and place to play hardball and use a confrontational approach to negotiations – adding the proper use of emotional intelligence and empathy will make your negotiations more effective. You’ll be able to have the upper hand while your opponent will feel heard. I have used this method in negotiating contracts worth millions of dollars for my real estate clients, contracts for myself, communicating effectively with my spouse and children, and I most definitely have used these strategies when dealing with my authoritative Asian Parents.
The book, Never Split the Difference, written by former FBI International Hostage Negotiator Chris Voss, is an excellent book to further your negotiation skills. If Voss can successfully understand and negotiate with terrorists by using empathy and emotional intelligence in a strategy that he calls tactical empathy, then we most definitely can use the same strategy to deal with Asian parents.
To further your knowledge in understanding emotional intelligence I highly recommend the book Emotional Intelligence written by science journalist, Daniel Goleman. Being emotionally intelligent is a highly beneficial skill as it requires you to have emotional self-awareness, self-regulate, empathy, and social skills. By gaining these qualities, it will help you understand what’s motivating other people and how to interact smarter with them.
If you’re interested in the same negotiating concept but written in a psychology format that is backed by scientific research and is geared towards parenting and raising children then I highly suggest reading Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child: The Heart of Parenting by John Gottman, an American psychological researcher, and clinician.
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