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Negotiate, Don't Compromise

When I land in India, the first thing I notice is advertising. Little, big, and ginormous signs, both analog and digital. They are everywhere my eyes roam. “Let’s Get High Together” screams an airline. “Young Enough to be Brave, Old Enough to be Smart” emblazoned on an electronic display of lime green and blue. Inside an aircraft cabin, every inch of my visual field is covered in advertising from the headrest covers to the trays to the overhead bins. We are held hostage while "they" sell. The force is so strong that I am amazed and stunned simultaneously, overwhelmed by the imagery.

While we transited through the advertising mecca called Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi, I wanted to hit my step goals. Feeling uncomfortable with the thought of losing each other in the throngs of travelers, we began negotiating. "Don’t go beyond that sign" tussled with "No till there, because we will be able to see each other". Eventually, we agreed on a point that worked for both of us. Then, I walked until I reached 10K steps.

The adverts around me and the little exercise with Tarun made me wonder how young girls learn to negotiate. I know girls are taught to compromise but exactly when and how are they shown the ropes on arriving at an end via negotiation versus acquiescence.

Our boys negotiated with us constantly. They led us to believe there was give-and-take but, really, we were mostly duped. Now that they are adults they readily admit to their modus operandi. If we had a daughter, I hope she would have been equally skilled.

In my profession, as I sell and deliver products and services, everything is a negotiation. The price, the hours, the deliverables, the timeline, the scope, the features - everything. I’ve got to be one step ahead or else I am ten steps behind. The negotiation and selling skills took decades to develop and I am not even top-tier material. Negotiation was never a part of any of my academic programs (err...except for the one time in college when I offered all kinds of reasons until my professor turned an F into a D) so how did I learn this?

Decades ago my father taught me how to negotiate. I never got what I wanted. His response was always “Dekhi” which in Bengali means "Let me see." Damn, I would think. Now, he’s going to watch me and I’m going to have to deliver good grades, good behavior, new thinking, and effort will matter less than result. Oy! And if I arrived at too-quick-a-conclusion on anything, he would systematically offer options "a" through "k". As in, why didn’t you think of this and that. Baba had my brother start with the most menial activity in his practice when my brother was in medical school to make him negotiate his way to the things he really wanted to do. Baba taught us to question and plan our responses and drove the chief ingredients of effective negotiation into our brains. And he didn't differentiate between how he approached his son and his daughter on this important mission.

His passing has led me to two weeks of humbling introspection and a promise to be more focused and patient. My brother and I have inherited the responsibility of building on his legacy and providing peace to our mother. In other words, Baba continues to negotiate with us from an alternate plane! He is extorting results. Fine, Baba! But you taught us to negotiate well, so you better be saying dekhi from the heavens and we promise to deliver :)

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