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The Father-Daughter “Dance”

Published: Jul 08 , 2019
Author: Sandy Sbarra

When your only daughter is getting married, all you want to do is help her put on the best wedding possible . . . within reason. My daughter and I have strong personalities, and I was preparing for the inevitable arguments as we planned her big day. To avoid them, I gave her complete control over how she could spend the wedding budget that my wife and I had set aside. That seemed to keep the peace, with the exception of one surprising argument.

The surprise? About a month ago, my daughter asked me if I had picked the song for our father-daughter dance. I told her “no”, but that I would work on it. I found what I thought was the perfect song, “I Loved Her First” by Heartland. It brought a tear to my eye, and my wife confirmed that it was very appropriate. When I told my daughter about the song, she claimed that it was too “sappy” and I needed to pick another. I dug in and said, “No, that’s it! I’m not picking another.” After a three-week intermission, the same argument ensued.

As a professional negotiator, I thought of all the ways I could resolve this issue:

  • Give in and find a different song. This option might have temporarily kept the peace, but since I had already given up all control of the wedding planning to her, giving in here would have been going past my limit of how flexible I was willing to be.
  • “Because I said so!” I could have dug my heels in more and threatened to take back the budget we gave her, unless she agreed to the song that I chose. This would have increased the level of drama and I didn’t want to make this a bigger issue than it needed to be.
  • Let her mother pick. We could’ve put it to her mother/my wife to make the choice. However, this arbitrative approach would’ve placed her in an awkward position and odds are my daughter would have been just as likely to still disagree.

While all of those are viable options they weren’t practical for the situation. Then I remembered another negotiation tactic - give her a choice. Long ago, when she was a lot younger, she wanted “Because You Loved Me” by Céline Dion, but that song had fallen out of favor as she grew older. Therefore, I offered the choice of the song by Heartland or Céline Dion. This gave her the power to choose from options I was comfortable with.

Ultimately, she chose Céline Dion. Our argument was over and drama was avoided. It was a good reminder of how powerful a choice can be. If you are ever at an impasse (even with a loved one), try giving them an option to choose and they often will. 



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About the author:

Sandy Sbarra
Since joining Scotwork in 2001, he’s become a teacher of a different sort, bringing expert skills training, coaching, and negotiation advice to thousands of professionals. During that time, he’s drawn from a 20-year procurement career and done extensive work with clients in such spaces as advertising, retail, and health & medical...

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