As an entrepreneur you are probably pretty accustomed to negotiating to get what you want. You negotiate prices, interest rates, contracts and more. And when you enter into a business partnership, you negotiate the details of the arrangement and the way you will do business.
What you may not be so used to is “negotiating” with your romantic partner. The term used most often in this setting is “compromise.” Two people communicate and discuss an issue, and eventually reach a compromise. The idea of compromising, though, carries the connotation that at least one person loses out in some way. They have to give up something important or valuable to them to reach an agreement.
Now, what happens when your romantic partner is also your business partner? How can you negotiate successfully with someone you are very likely used to compromising with? As with any relationship, life partners who are also business partners should work toward finding a win-win solution. The art of negotiating a win-win, or no-compromise, solution with another person requires a lot of effort. But the pay-off is a relationship filled with respect and cooperation.
The art of negotiation for entrepreneurial couples consists of the following:
Listen. It is very important to hone your listening skills. Listening can be a difficult skill to master, especially if you have a lot to say. But a good listener gains understanding of the other person’s reality, which is necessary before you can proceed with negotiations.
Listen to what your partner is trying to tell you, not just the actual words they are using. It will take some perception and understanding on your part to read between the lines. Pay attention to their body language. Also, be truly interested in what they have to say. You have chosen to spend your life with this person, so show that same interest and kindness when you deal with them in regards to your business.
Display empathy. Your partner has likely spent a good portion of their day being beat up by the outside world. So when negotiating with them, deal with them in a different way. You are a source of peace, a place of sanctuary. If you are genuine and make the effort to feel what your partner is feeling, they will feel appreciated. This will make them more comfortable speaking in clear terms that will require less analyzing and translating on your part.
Watch your tone. Maybe a direct, assertive, no-nonsense tone has gotten you what you want from others in the past. It probably doesn’t work so well with your partner. Your voice helps sets the tone for negotiations, so start light. Keep your tone positive, even playful. If things get more serious and stressful, use a low and slow voice. This type of voice inflection signals that you are in control, but does not show aggression or put your partner on the defensive.
Look at things a different way. There are many “right” solutions to a problem. We tend to think our solution is the right one because it fits our reality the best. Be open to ideas that work just as well, or even better, than our original one. Don’t deny yourself the opportunity to benefit from the creativity of other free thinking individuals.
Take your time. Don’t move too quickly, or too slow. Don’t drag on a negotiation longer than need be. But devote the time necessary to have a productive conversation, or series of conversations. It may be that a solution cannot be reached in one day, and you have to go to bed and start again tomorrow. That’s ok! Don’t give up just because you aren’t getting your way. You may be tempted to resort to intimidation for the sake of expediency, but you will risk your healthy relationship with your partner.
Focus. Keep your business discussions focused on business. Try to avoid letting personal issues or outside forces into the conversation. And when the discussion is over, don’t let it carry over into your personal relationship. Living with your business partner doesn’t mean that everything revolves around the business. Nurture your personal relationship, too.