Explicit negotiation between two parties with third party as intended intermediary.

Here is an example that led me to a realization that if we want our message to someone else to be successful then we need to be clear from the start.

I wanted some cheesy popcorn from the bag my son was holding. He absolutely refused to give some to me, but he inclined that he would be more than willing to share with his mother. After some back and forth exchange I arrived at the following proposition which was amenable to him. You share some popcorn with Mommy, and Mommy will share with me. All set to go, now to enlist the aid of my wife.

negotiations begin

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I tell her that our child will share with her and then she will share with me. Armed with this data she does what anyone else is likely to do and reinterprets what i said in a form that she thinks will work better for our son. “Can you give me some of your popcorn so that I can give it to Daddy?” -Which is essentially what the transaction is supposed to be. Unfortunately my child has been programmed (by me) to hear certain words in a certain order. Unless he hears the right phrase he will be unlikely to unlock the transaction. The alternative is for my wife to renegotiate on the spot until she is able to secure the understanding of our child and thus release the popcorn from his grasp.

Fortunately, I am right there and I can repeat the code phrase and insist that she repeats it verbatim. She does so and this works perfectly.

Where did I go wrong? Everything was set to go and we almost lost the entire transaction there in the middle. I could have been deprived entirely of popcorn..

The problem was that I wasn’t explicit with my intermediary from the start. I knew that I had brokered the deal with my son based on a set of key phrases that gave him a sense of control over the situation and allowed the transference of the popcorn to me. So the negotiation portion of the transaction was complete. Unfortunately I didn’t account for reinterpretation and styling by the third party (my wife). I should have started my request to her with “Please tell our son exactly ‘Can I have a piece of popcorn?’ *secure popcorn* ‘Okay, I am going to share with your dad now’

I think too often we think that any communications between ourselves and another person have equal weight. Whether they be in person, over email, or via another person. But this is only true if you are monitoring the entire situation from the start and can intervene if anything changes. The next best thing is to highlight the unalterable portions of your message, and be clear about exactly what you are trying to accomplish

sending my message to the ether

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I bring up emails here because you are not on the other side of the screen when the person you are communicating with opens the message. The computer is the worst kind of third party intermediary. It cannot read your recipient’s face, emotions, verbal cues etc… to know when something has gone wrong. Only you, the sender, can affect the clarity of your email/SM response. Write clearly; leave no opportunity for misinterpretation by the recipient.

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