Whether you have a stress-free or stress-filled coParent situation, good negotiation skills are a must. Sure, you might have an agreement or certain arrangements already outlined, but things change. Not everything can go according to plan. Cue the oh-so-important negotiating skills!
If you’re like 80% of the population, you tend to use the “wait and see” technique, looking for the other person to make the first move. However, when you’re a coParent, there’s a lot to be said for taking the initiative or being the bigger person. I’ve learned this slowly with my own coParent situation, and I still need reminders from time to time. Whether you’re negotiating time, discipline, or anything else, consider these twelve tips to ensure optimal success!
Set a positive tone.
This makes a huge difference when you’re negotiating. When you start off on the wrong foot, no one feels like giving in or being flexible. If this tends to happen with your coParent a lot, try to take the lead and create a positive up front. This might mean talking about the kids or just sharing about life in general before the negotiation starts.
Check your ego at the door.
You might be dealing with the most impossible, difficult coParent, but it won’t do any good to go in with preconceived notions or frustrations. Try to forget what you think is owed to you or what you deserve, and start with a blank slate.
Calmly state your position.
You’re negotiating something, so you clearly have a plan or point-of-view. This is valid and important, but try to state this without being overly emotional about it. Yes, it’s good to say why you feel a certain way or what it means to you overall, but don’t go to a place of being angry or emotional. This will likely bring up feelings for your coParent as well that might not be positive.
It’s so easy to identify all the reasons something won’t work, but it’s not going to get you anywhere. Instead, try to take a step back and force yourself to come up with a solution. You just might find an answer.
Take a break as needed.
When things are getting heated or going nowhere, recognize this and set the problem aside for a bit. Whether you just need a breath of fresh air or an entire day or two, take a break. But don’t forget to come back to the discussion. Set a follow-up time and date so it doesn’t get lost.
Find something to agree on.
There has to be something you agree on, right? You might be inclined to say no right away, but really dig deep. Even if it’s something simple like, “Oh, isn’t the weather nice today,” it can help move things in the right direction.
Focus on the future, not the past.
This one is challenging because you have a history there that doesn’t just go away. You might also be dealing with someone who is always changing plans, not showing up, or being difficult to work with. But you have to let this go if you want to move forward. This doesn’t mean you have to get walked on or be a pushover. You can still state your opinion and your viewpoint. However, live in the moment.
Find a way in.
Even the toughest nut to crack can be cracked! Find a way in to build a strong, healthy rapport. What motivates your coParent? Saving money? Spending more time with the kids? Focus on how what you want will benefit them and use it to your advantage. This isn’t a manipulation technique. It’s just a way to bridge a new friendship and relationship with someone you coParent with.
Find something positive to say about your coParent and say it. They will appreciate the recognition, and it will set a positive tone in your discussion. Even if it relates to your child, that’s perfectly fine. Did your kids say something recently that was nice about their day? Tell your coParent this!
Be willing to give something up.
Every good negotiation is about give and take. Figure out ahead of time what you’re willing to compromise or give up. By doing this ahead of time, you’ll have a game plan when headed into negotiations, and you won’t make emotional decisions. I personally tend to give up way too much while negotiating. I’ll agree to almost anything to keep the peace. So be sure you’re not headed in this direction either.
Work on big topics in phases.
Are you negotiating a really big thing like a swap in weekends or a vacation? Take it in phases. You don’t have to decide everything right away. It’s fine to introduce the topic and say, “Just think about it, and we’ll talk again later.” I’m completely guilty of making my mind up immediately about something, only to realize I was too quick to react.
Remind yourself it’s about the kids.
This is the most important thing. Your negotiation should be centered around your kid’s needs most of all. Don’t have arguments or negotiations in front of them. Don’t put them in the middle. And do take the time with your coParent to rememberer they are what matters most.