Daily Archives: March 20, 2012

How did I get in THIS mess?

I sometimes talk about creeping concessions, but I sometimes wonder if I’m giving the impression that I don’t believe in negotiation.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  The only real trick is how to differentiate the two.

Creeping concessions, in my experience, are one-time concessions or favors that are then established as precedents from then on. Negotiation is different entirely and has to do with setting agreements on a global scale.


Joe: Will you pick me up at four in the morning tomorrow?
Maria: Sure.

(Three days later)

Joe: I need you to pick me up at four in the morning tomorrow.
Maria: Sorry, hon, I’ve got a long day and am not going to be able to do that.
Joe: What the hell? You did it last Monday! I thought we’d agreed that you’d pick me up when I asked!

That’s a creeping concession, though that one is so big and obvious that chances are most people would stop punch it unless the relationship had gotten so bad that their crazy had become your normal.  Chances are good that if someone has poor relationship skills, or worse, is deliberately trying to take advantage of you, you’ll see much smaller increments in the process.  But even so, the process is quite the same.

Healthy relationships where people have good communication skills will have negotiation. Negotiation would look like this:

Joe: There are going to be days that I’m not going to be able to predict in advance that I’ll need a ride very early in the morning. Would you be willing to do that?
Maria: I’m going to have to give a conditional yes on that. You see, some days I have to work from eight to eight. On those days, getting up really early is going to seriously interfere with my sleep.

Joe: Crap. I really need a ride those days and the bus doesn’t run that early. I know you like to do the cooking, but would it help if you knew that you’d be able to count on me having dinner on the table those nights?

Maria: I’m willing to try it on a provisional basis for a month or so. If it interferes with my work performance, we’ll need to find something else.

Joe: Okay. Tell you what, we’ll do it for a month, but during that month I’ll cast around for another solution.

(One month later)

Joe: How is getting up early going? I’ve talked to my boyfriend and he’s willing to pick me up on your twelve hour days.

Maria: Don’t sweat it. Since I’m not cooking those nights, it works out just fine.  Besides, I’m liking that curry you made last week and want to give you a chance to make it again *grin*

Notice in the negotiation stage, Joe really needs that ride. Maria needs her sleep. THEY BOTH SAY WHAT THEY NEED. In this instance, Joe and Maria are also being proactive and showing good will.  Notice Maria is willing to try it provisionally, but gives a time frame.  Being concrete helps with establishing boundaries and keeping the waters from getting muddy. Joe understands the time frame and FOLLOWS THROUGH on a possible alternate solution.  At the end of the trial in this case Maria decides she’s fine with the arrangement, and in this case is willing to see a small benefit to herself in the process.  I can’t emphasize enough how much mutual good will is required for negotiation to work well.  Joe and Maria have a good relationship because they see each other as on the same side.  The end of that check-in could just as easily have gone:

(One month later)

Joe: How is getting up early going? I’ve talked to my boyfriend and he’s willing to pick me up on your twelve hour days.

Maria:  Good, because I’m finding that I’m having a hard time concentrating those last three hours of my 12s.  I really need more sleep.

Joe: Thanks for giving me the time to find an alternative, hon *kiss*  I’ll text Michael and let him know I will be needing that ride.

Either way, the presumption of good will stands, both partners have been honest about what they can and cannot do, and they both are genuinely interested in each others’ needs and welfare.

So what happens if you find yourself in a situation where you’ve been agreeing to more and more without realizing it or intending to?

If you find that you’ve gone in further than you’d intended, I think the best thing to remember is that you do have the right to change your mind about what YOU will do. (Not necessarily what the other person will do).  I think it would still be foolish to presume ill-will on the part of the person you’re doing the favors for, mind.  Mistakes happen, and since you’re responsible for the no, you’re responsible for communicating your own boundaries.  If you didn’t get busy and fix that by letting the interested parties know.    They might be disappointed in the change, and might even say so, but if you’re dating a grown up, what you won’t get is a tantrum.

If you get the tantrum, you have another problem to solve. :)