As summer fades into our memories, we stand on the precipice of the holiday season. If you’ve ever edged your toes to the fringe of a cliff, there’s a similar feeling of excitement and fear as we make our preparations. For some, it’s more excitement than fear; for others, the holidays might be more stressful and downright terrifying than many other things in their life. Regardless, ’tis the season of competing wants and priorities. How well we navigate those has a direct impact on our enjoyment of the season.
No matter if you’re a people pleaser or a taskmaster, navigating the season’s priorities can be demanding. It’s not easy trying to balance the wants and needs of your immediate family, extended family, friends, and — let’s not forget — you! The same can be said for the workplace. In any negotiation, the priorities seem to be categorized into three major buckets: time, money, and relationships. How well we navigate those directly relates to our satisfaction with any negotiated outcome.
Whenever we’re brought in to help with a negotiation, one of the places we start is trying to understand what’s important to all parties. It’s the first step to getting all the issues out on the table. From there, we work to create a prioritization of needs to help us understand our objectives, where leverage exists, and to inform a strategy.
As I recently went through that process with a client, I couldn’t help but think that there might be some things we can take from the negotiation process that will be helpful with our holiday priority balancing act. For what it’s worth, here are some best practices we apply at the negotiating table that may help you with your holiday planning:
- Make a list of everything you need to get. In any negotiation, it’s important to know what you’re working towards. Without this list of needs, you’ll never know where to go. For the holidays, do the same. Ask yourself, “What do I want to get out of the holidays?”
- Make a list of everything that you think everyone else needs to get. We do this at the negotiating table to form the basis of our strategy. However, they’re assumptions until we can verify. Making lists helps us understand what we need to ask about and validate, so that we don’t base our strategy on false assumptions. So, for the holidays, ask your family and friends what they need — you might be surprised by their answers.
- Prioritize your needs. Now that you understand what you want, and you have an understanding of what everyone else wants, it’s time to stack-rank your needs. By the way, you can’t make everything #1! Force yourself to organize your list with the most important items at the top and the least important at the bottom. This will help you understand your areas of flexibility when it comes to competing priorities. Without it, you might give in or be unnecessarily obstinate.
- Adjust your approach as you learn more. During a negotiation, we advise, “Be laser-focused on your objectives but flexible on your strategy.” If your #1 objective is to spend time with your family, then does it really matter if that happens at your house or your aunt’s? The objective is spending time; where that happens is the strategy. If you can be more flexible on your strategy, you’ll achieve more of your objectives.
- Forgive yourself instead of judging yourself. As the pugilist-philosopher Mike Tyson once said, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” When you get to the negotiating table, your plan may not go according to plan. That’s OK. In fact, you should expect deviations. However, if you become critical about your misses or get wrapped up in your own ego around your plan, you’ll add more stress and chaos to the moment and start to lose objectivity and focus. When things don’t go according to plan, try to understand why. Then adjust and lean into your new plan.
As much as we tend to focus on how the other party is impacting our negotiations or how others are impacting our holidays, the reality is that most of the issues we’re going to face revolve around how we handle ourselves during those moments. The better we control our approach and reaction, the less control the other side has over our desired outcomes.
We Can Help You Navigate Time, Money, and Relationships — at the Negotiating Table and Beyond.
Whether you’re negotiating a critical deal or trying to navigate the competing wants and priorities of the holiday season, you’re bound to feel the stress. We can help! Drawing on 46 years of real-world negotiating experience, we’ll assist you with getting better deals, saving time, and creating value for all involved — not to mention preserving and even strengthening relationships. Let us partner you with one of our advisers, ensuring that you’ve got the broadest view of your deal.