My son Sean (age 10) is a master negotiator. He has been incredibly adept at this since he learned how to talk. I remember his first negotiation.
Dad: Finish your chicken Sean.
Sean: I’ll eat three more bites.
Dad: Why three?
Sean: I’m three years old.
Sounded logical to me. That’s usually how he gets me. He doesn’t just ask for special consideration, he states his case, provides a logical reason for it, and then negotiates from there…on his terms. I usually walk away from these negotiations shaking my head, wondering how he got me again.
Dad: Sean, it’s time to do your homework.
Sean: I’ll start in thirty minutes.
Dad: No, you’ll start right now.
Sean: But Dad, I only have one assignment, and it will take me about twenty minutes. If dinner starts at 6:15, that means I don’t need to start the assignment until 5:55.
Dad: What if it takes longer than twenty minutes?
Sean: It never takes longer than twenty minutes.
Dad: Humor me. Allow extra time just in case.
Sean: OK, Dad. You win. I’ll start in twenty minutes.
See how he did that? I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that he attempts to negotiate every day—nearly every single time he can. I’ve heard him negotiate circles around his older brothers. Before they know what hit them, they’ve given him things or agreed to do things that they absolutely didn’t want to give or do.
He can smell wiggle room. When I see him do something Bridget or I ask him to do without negotiating, I know that it’s something he wanted to do anyway. When I see him do something for his brothers that he clearly doesn’t want to do, I know that they have threatened him with physical violence if he doesn’t agree to their terms. It’s the only way he ever loses a negotiation.
This week I finally had a chance to debut his negotiating skills in the real world. He had been pestering me for weeks to allow him to sell back a bunch of old/used DS and Wii games to one of the gaming stores. I finally agreed to take him only because I wanted to see the master haggler in the wild.
He sprang into action the moment we entered the store, confidently striding up to the cashier and placing the pile of games on the counter.
“What will you give me for these?” he asked.
She looked at the pile, and figured it out in her head. “Well,” she said. “This whole pile is worth about maybe, I don’t know, $16?”
I started rubbing my hands together in anticipation. Even I could smell the wiggle room in that comment. Your turn, Haggle King. Time for a counter-offer.
“Deal,” he said.
I checked his temperature to make sure he wasn’t coming down with something. Maybe he didn’t get enough sleep the night before after convincing his mother he absolutely positively needed to stay up until 11 to see which chef would be the winner of “Chopped.” It was the only possible explanation for choking under pressure like this.
“But $16 isn’t enough for a new game,” I pointed out to him.
“I know, Dad,” he said, as he pulled something out of his pocket. “That’s why I brought along this gift card.”
Why do I have a funny feeling that the actual negotiation didn’t take place in this store at all? It took place at home, when he managed to convince me to take him to the store in the first place. The grin on his face told me all I needed to know.
The Haggle King still sits proudly on his throne.