The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

January 31, 2014

The art of negotiating

By Scott Levine
Herald Associate Editor

---- — The art of the negotiation takes years to master.

Whether seeking a small salary hike or closing a multi-million dollar deal, negotiating is a game of chess that requires guts and great timing.

My negotiating skills aren’t necessarily that great, but with my daughter’s help, I may be able to close that deal on persuading my wife to buy ice cream whenever she’s at the store.

My 3-year-old is doing everything in her power to showcase her budding negotiating skills. Nothing deters her — not even the law of numbers.

Her negotiating usually starts off slow, like her attempt at persuading me to give her chocolate.

“OK, OK, OK, OK,” she says, gearing up to put out a great deal that I can’t deny. “I’ll take a piece of chocolate and you can have one.”

That’s a wonderful gesture, but at 4:30 p.m., it’s much too close to dinner time for candy to be dished out.

“OK, OK, OK, OK,” she says in rebuttal, obviously not ready to concede. “How about I take two pieces of chocolate?”

Hmmm…if I deny her having one piece of candy, why would she think I would give her two?

She then bats her eyes and pulls out the ultimate closer of “sweet, innocent daughter” look, and I cave, but only to her original demand. And that’s what makes her a genius. The best negotiators provide a number so high that the original demand sounds good.

Unfortunately, I don’t think I’ve ever pulled off the “sweet, innocent daughter” look, and at this age, I doubt I could deliver on that negotiating ploy.

But her constant negotiating on everything, from increased bath time to shutting off the light at night, has given me more opportunities to improve my poker face at the negotiating table.

At bath time, she asks for two more minutes every time she hears footsteps.

“I’m coming in,” I say, thinking of the best strategy of tackling her full head of thick, blonde hair.

“Two more minutes,” she replies, not understanding that if she waited two more minutes, she may be in an ice bath with all the extended breaks she’s negotiated.

And bed time isn’t much better, as she always has something to add before I switch off the light.

“Just one more book, please,” she says, desperately attempting to stay up one more minute.

But I’m getting better at denying her ploys. The “one more book” effort used to take me down each time, because how can I deny someone of reading? Well, that usually backfired, with continued attempts at more books, so as long as I turn off the light, I avoid seeing her closer, the “sweet, innocent daughter” look.

I still don’t have much of an answer for the “look,” but with the negotiating master teaching me at every corner, I may develop an anecdote by at least the time she enters her teenage years.

An apprentice (or a dad) can only dream.

Scott Levine is the Associate Editor of the Clinton Herald. He can be reached at scottlevine@clintonherald.com.