Negotiating Lessons Learned
from Princess Di and Prince Charles’ Divorce
Are you a fan of the hit Netflix series, The Crown? If so, I invite you to draw your attention to the negotiation advice you can take away from the show. Next time you curl up with a bowl of popcorn for your latest fix of monarchy madness, get intentional about what lessons you can bring to bear in your daily negotiations.
Last night, my daughter and I watched the ‘Couple 31’ episode (from the latest season 5) where Princess Di and Prince Charles are seeking to finalize their divorce. It struck me that there were valuable insights to glean. I thought I’d share them with you today.
As the episode led up to the (anti-climactic) courtroom scene for the royal couple, we shared a series of intimate moments with other (unknown) couples in therapy over the end of their relationship. It was interesting as, for each couple, my daughter and I had different perspectives about the relative merits of each partners grievances about the circumstances leading to the decline of their relationships. In some cases, she saw the husband as ‘at fault’ when I did not and vice versa.
As with anything in life, these divergent viewpoints depended on each of our respective life experiences, values, conditioning, etc. What I found most interesting was that in every case, there was no absolute right or wrong. Both parties’ experiences were real for them, based on their unique perspectives. They each brought their respective baggage to the table, with their personal accumulated hurts and insecurities, which impacted on the meaning they each attached to the same circumstances. This meaning became each of their realities.
Given each of their self-created realities, both of their positions were perfectly understandable. There was sympathy and merit to be found on both sides of the proverbial table. Whether for the wife at home alone with the kids, desperately seeking more of the husband’s time, or for his deep-seated desire to provide for his family and accordingly work around the clock. Or for the young new bride who felt suffocated and needed nights out with friends, or her older husband who pined as he wallowed in his perceived abandonment at home. You get the idea. Each party’s hurts were real for them. Each felt equally justified in their outrage at the behaviour of their partners. Each felt the solution was obvious and simple, if only their partner could see the light.
This lies at the heart of virtually all conflict and is key to every negotiation. We tend to approach our negotiations in life with a sense of certainty about the rightness or moral high ground of our positions. We bring our righteous indignation about the inequity of the other party’s stance. We scoff at their misguided and disingenuous recitation of the facts. We forget (or ignore) that each of our realities is determined by our relative perspectives.
This is why Empathy is a key foundational element of the Art of Feminine Negotiation™. If we want to secure best outcomes in our negotiations (whether personally or professionally) it’s critical to be willing to put ourselves firmly in the shoes of the other party. We need to seek to understand and meet the needs of the other party even (and especially) when we disagree. We open the space for creative and compassionate solutions when we can put our version and wants on the back burner and show up from a place of curiosity. Ask questions. Be fascinated by the answers you get. Listen fully to ensure the fullest possible understanding … and here’s the key … from the perspective or through the eyes of the other party.
It's only when we can approach our potential conflicts from this place of empathy that we can avoid the drilling down entrenchment of our respective positions that builds impassable tunnels. Instead of creating ever-separating silos of indignation, why not instead build pathways of understanding to find a road to healing and collaboration for all?
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