Negotiating your way around the Royal Wedding dilemma

So it was announced, something that was anticipated but for many seemed an almost distant hope – the Royal Wedding of a favourite prince to his new princess. This is just what the country needed, something to lift the spirits of an entire nation, after several years of bad economic news… what added to the excitement? That this event was to be declared a Public Holiday! People soon realised, thanks to the timing of Easter this year, that it was to provide a most unique opportunity, the ability to take 11 days off of work and only have to use 3 days leave! Marvellous! That is of course where things become difficult and where your negotiation skills really need to be put to best use.

Negotiating with your own emotion
The British (and Commonwealth) have a sense of pride at being able to throw lavish ‘royal’ parties and we haven’t had one for a while, so this one should be good (even with the constraints of trying to be fiscally responsible). So there is a problem…how can you possibly want to take a holiday and leave the country and miss this great event? The smiling faces of William and Kate on mugs, tea-towels, plates (and almost anything that can be printed) stare out at you longing for you to join them in their celebration – so how can you even imagine taking time off from “being British” (if even for one day!)

If you missed the previous royal wedding you will have had friends recount the wonderful time they had at Diana’s. And now it’s her eldest son and his bride, wearing that ring!!! It gets worse! So how can you miss the occasion? Well, remember as professionals we negotiate every day but when it comes to personal issues we get swept up with emotional responses and upon reflection ask ourselves “how could I have done that – I should know better…” but we don’t. Here is something to remember, emotions are the drivers for conflict and it doesn’t have to be with someone else – it can be an internal conflict – yes, with yourself… so… what to do?
• Recognise that emotions are normal – that you and others will each have a conscious or unconscious emotional response. Some may not be as vocal as others who may be having a “royal” emotional breakdown that you will not be attending a street party – but each person will have a thought, a reaction, a response.
• Respect – this is the difficult one for some – when you start being labeled as unpatriotic or just using this as an excuse to take time off from work, realise that they are entitled to these emotional responses, just as you are entitled to your own emotional reaction.
• Respond – it is hard not to get drawn into a debate about the validity of a monarchy or the need for a royal family but all of these discussions are something that come with a royal event. You may even be labeled as a “non-believer” – how you respond will determine whether this will be a positive or a negative interaction. Many conflicts have erupted over a simple difference of opinions – so take a moment before you respond…if you feel your heart racing, you blood pressure rise …perhaps this isn’t the best time to have this conversation.

Ok… so you have decided to take the holiday – but so have your colleagues! You have seen them at their desk with their calendars shortly after the wedding was announced and smile with glee when they realised the opportunity to maximise their holiday entitlement.

Negotiating with peers/colleagues
Unless your company decides to completely shut-down between Easter and the Royal Wedding there has to be the conversation with your colleagues about who will take this time off. This is where preparation is important… don’t start the conversation without first thinking about how you could make it work for everyone. Could you pick-up a difficult assignment, provide an incentive… what tradables are there? This is just like any other negotiation – emotions also need to be considered (how will the other person react – and how will you respond – remember the tips given above). Ok, you are prepared and you can start the conversation. That’s where is becomes difficult… too often we avoid conversations we find uncomfortable until it is too late, or we avoid it all together and just deal with the consequences (one example would be to go directly to your boss and ask for the time off – your boss agrees… your colleague does the same thing and is told that you have already asked for the time off… you then have to deal with your colleagues reaction…). Having thought about it, you know that you need to have the conversation.

The conversation
• Again, be prepared – (as discussed) perhaps this is something you should write down so you can keep your thoughts clear.
• Begin the conversation – depending on what you have prepared, this could include an offer or just stating your reason for the conversation (one thing is that you should keep this clear and succinct and then get their reaction) – listen, listen, listen – not just for information but also for understanding (observe the non-verbals).
• Explore and negotiate – this is a dialogue, a discussion – listen to the other person and also your response (are you getting emotional?) What is your alternative? If you have already made plans, this might be difficult but not impossible. This is where your preparation will really be important – if you have done it, you will see the reward for the time spent on it!
• Close – agree on what was discussed and what needs to be done (then put this in writing – often misunderstandings happen because people may have a slightly different recollection of what has been agreed).

You have had the conversation and your colleague has agreed to work during that period – now you have to talk to your boss. That should be easy (depending on the individual) because you have already practiced with your colleague – prepare, open, explore, negotiate and close…

In conclusion
Too often we think that negotiating is something that we only do in the business environment and then find ourselves falling into difficulty because of our inability to use our professional skills in our personal lives. Practice and be aware of every opportunity to create value and deal with conflict before it arises (or respond effectively if it has already occurred).

Whatever you decide to do enjoy Easter and the Royal Wedding, where our future King and Queen will walk down the aisle at Westminster Abbey, whether you are at home or abroad.

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by Ranse Howell

Ranse Howell is the Mediator and Consultant for The Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution (CEDR).