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 yadda.
“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.
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.
In 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.