One More Bite

Since joining the marketing team here at Mobus Inc, I’ve often heard it said that people negotiate everyday – in their relationships, at work, with family, etc. As Frank explains, “Negotiating is just people getting together to make an agreement.” 

I instinctively know this to be true, and yet I hadn’t experienced any moments of “Ah, this is a negotiation” until last weekend. I brought my 18-month-old daughter down to visit my grandparents who absolutely adore her. My grandmother is an incredible chef and had prepared a delicious, wholesome soup especially for the occasion. We all sat down to eat and, at this point, my daughter looked up at me with a mischievous glint in her eye as if to taunt, “I’m going to misbehave in front of Grandma and Grandpa” (something I vividly remember my brother saying to torment my own mother).

She refused to take a single bite, instead pointing at a dish of plain avocado. 

Now, she is generally a very good eater, but she’s a toddler with two molars coming in and with a healthy love of a little drama. Normally, I would just breeze through the “I’m not going to eat” stickiness (okay, well, “breeze” might be too strong of a word). But this was a special occasion, extra effort had been made, people were watching, yadda negotiating-babyyadda. 

“You have to eat your soup first,” I asserted in my best I-love-you-but-don’t-mess-with-me-right-now voice (she’s my first child so I’m still working on it).

Then, she heightened the stakes by starting to squeal. It was a very genuine sounding cry. Now the pressures on my side (to nourish her well, to act in sympathy with her teething fussiness, and to not look like a chump or worse, a bad mother, in front of my family) ring through loud and clear in my head. Kids seem to intuit our pressures and act accordingly, while parents, sleep-deprived and eager to do what’s best, often find their own offspring’s pressures inscrutable and mercurial.

So she and I have a little back and forth. “Yes, my love, you have eat soup before you can have avocado.” An extra loud shriek. I immediately regret stipulating this. Why, why did I say it?!?! But it’s out there now and there’s no going back on it.

More crying. 

Then, I blurt out: “Three bites. You have to have 3 bites of soup, then you can have avocado.”

The crying desists immediately.


I look at her beautiful, inscrutable, mercurial, devil-in-disguise little face and I have an epiphany. This baby just did a flinch so convincing in its vehemence (i.e. the crying) that she got me to lay down the first offer – something Frank encourages you to avoid if at all possible. Even so, I felt empowered. At least I knew where I stood.

She ate two bites, but tried to back off from the third. But I remember the pressures facing her, or at least the ones I could vaguely surmise: she was hungry, she wanted the avocado. I held firm. 

“One more bite.”

She met me on that one. And, then, after she believed the deal had closed and we’d moved on to the avocado, I managed to alternate a few more bites of soup in there. 

negotiating a delight factorIn this way, we seem to have found our way through haggling before she is even fully verbal. But to make sure we ended on good terms, I finished the meal with her favorite fruit: blueberries (blueberries, thank merciful goodness, can always be counted on as a delight factor).

After all, this is definitely an instance where I want to build a strategic relationship, not just haggle over the bottom line. She’s way too good at bargaining. I have to think big picture if I want to stay in the game.