When asked about their most difficult negotiation, our course participants always talk about domestic negotiations - with partners and children. They don’t mention difficult customers, aggressive suppliers, tough business negotiations; rather, they find their negotiation skills are put to the ultimate test at home.
The root of this change became even more apparent with 1 in 10 young adults moving back home in the last year... One in ten!!! That is a staggering 662,000 people and a similar number of households faced with new, often challenging situations.
Our crisis in affordable housing is an obvious driver, but for some young people - they have just found the responsibilities of independent living too tough. As one who has experienced this personally, I can understand the multiple, emotionally draining conflicts that will arise as a result of this demographic shift.
It is a situation that calls for even the most experienced negotiators to sharpen their skills before agreeing to the ‘offspring’ return. Unfortunately, many parents who find themselves in this situation have forgotten that while a child may have left home, it is in fact, an adult who is returning. It is unfortunate that some social commentators have redefined the age of adolescence as lasting from 13 to 30 (!) so the return home could be for an extended period.
What makes this situation even more difficult is that the families faced with this situation may have previously been ‘helicopter’ (hovering over their children so they come to no harm) or ‘snow plough’ (clearing all obstacles in the path of their children) parents. If so, it is doubly difficult.
After listening to so many Scotwork course participants struggling to navigate this phenomenon, I have put together this guide to negotiating the new relationships:
1. Team parent speaks with one voice. Negotiators know that it is very easy to undermine a team member by disagreeing with them during a negotiation. Parents need to agree on a position, and both stick to it - without exception. Trust me, your children will spot any split and exploit it to the fullest.
2. Agree the rules of engagement – give them what they want, on your terms. Before they return home, both parents and child (children) should negotiate how this is going to work. A common complaint is that the returnee is resource intensive in every sense: food, space, broadband, shower time, vehicles and parking, with no regard to either expense or the impact on others in the house.
This is particularly true if the returnee left straight after graduating school. During the stressful years 11 and 12, many parents will try and ease the burden felt by their kids through reducing the household responsibilities “don’t worry about the washing up, just focus on your assignments”. The risk here is that the returnee may have expectations that this will again be the norm. Children have always been experts in exploiting emotions as means for getting their own way. But remember - this is now a shared house.
The terms under which you would accept the returnee could include financial responsibilities and contribution to household work. In negotiating terms, we would call this “giving them what they want, on terms that work for you”.
3. Assess the power balance. Parents should remember it is their house, television, fridge and washing machine and they have worked hard to acquire these essentials. They should recognise their power in negotiating the terms of the return. The problem with not recognising and deploying your power effectively is that getting the returnee to agree to the terms of return will be challenging.
4. Use time as a variable. The return home should not be open ended: set a fixed period to save the deposit, return to health or address the reason for return. The return should be seen as a temporary respite from the rigours of independence, not a permanent feather bed.
While most of our clients engage Scotwork for negotiation training and support on commercial fronts, often the best stories our alumni share are the ones where they negotiated at home. The domestic negotiations can be way more challenging than difficult customers/suppliers, and they are certainly way more important. Remember, the professional discipline of negotiation skills, strategies and process learned through Scotwork can still be applied.