Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Meet me half-way

My sister-in-law, Liz, was over at the house last night watching basketball with Chris. Not only is she a great girl, but she is a good sister and an even better Liz-in-law because she relieves me of my obligation to sit and watch sports with my husband when I would much rather be flossing my teeth or poking my eyes out with pencils.

Liz is in the wonderful stage of life lovingly referred to as Apartment Dwelling. Chris and I remember our days of Apartment Dwelling with fondness every time we have to call the plumber or the electrician or think about how much our recent little construction project set us back. How nice to be free of yard worries and to call the Super when your toilet runs or your faucet is leaky.

It's all wonderful except for the dreaded re-signing of the Lease. The notice showed up on Liz's door yesterday. And so we had the discussion of "Do I stay and sign or move somewhere else?"

But her apartment complex knows:
Price of packing and moving a 2-bedroom apartment: $500
Increase in rent price: $20/month
Getting to stay in your apartment and not having to go through the hassle of getting a new place: Priceless

And they are placing bets that it is worth $20 more a month to not have the expense and hassle of going elsewhere. And the twinge that comes from writing that slightly larger I-could-buy-another-DVD-with-that-money check will go away in time or at least until the next re-sign notice shows up on the door.

But not quite convinced, Liz asks the million-dollar question. Don't you think they'll negotiate with me?

Ah Negotiation. I know it scares the bejeevers out of some people. My work requires one negotiation after the other, day after day. Negotiation of skills and money and expectations. People may say No to me, and I just keep negotiating. It's just the tug of war between me getting what I want and you getting what you want and finding that balance somewhere in the middle.

Negotiation is just compromise. Give and Take. And compromise is all around us. (Except at the Farmers Market when I tried to get two cantaloupes for $5 instead of $3/each, and the farmer would not budge at all. Mental note for your next trip downtown. But at least I tried.)

I thought marriage was going to be the thing that honed my negotiating and compromising skills. But Chris is so easy that for the most part I get what I want (not to sound like a brat or anything, but that's kind of how it works at our house).

But parenting. Now that's another story. Parenting is full of negotiation and compromise. I know you read that I bribed incented ChellBell with Girl Scout cookies to get her to finish her homework a few weeks ago. It's okay if you judged me or decided I was a terrible Mom. But you must admit that in the end, ChellBell got something she wanted, and I got what I wanted. And 8 pages of homework were completed in one sitting. Without anyone getting upset, no less.

You'll hear us negotiating over our dinner table about "how many more bites before I'm done?" and before bed "how many more minutes?" and I'll say two and she'll say five then I'll say three and drop it or you won't get any minutes. And she agrees. End of negotiation.

So, see, negotiation isn't as scary as you might think, because we're doing it all the time. The trick is just not playing all your cards at once -- and knowing what you are willing to give up and what you're standing firm on.

But if all else fails, Liz, try the Girl Scout cookies...

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