Would you be okay if the last conversation you had with a loved one was the last one you ever had?
Have you ever had a conversation with a loved one that would devastate it you if it ended up being your last conversation with them? I was reminded of the importance of this question recently. And to share the point, I first have to make a confession. I had not been practicing what I preach.
My Art of Feminine Negotiation™ program is all about being intentional so you handle potentially difficult conversations with ease and grace, showing up as the best version of yourself to get best outcomes. It’s not always easy, but it’s worth the effort.
I had definitely not been invoking the principles that make up the Art of Feminine Negotiation™. My husband and I had been scrapping. Without getting into the nitty gritty, suffice it to say, he’d hurt my feelings … again. It was the same theme that often recurs in our relationship. I felt like we’d had the discussion a million times (and yes that propensity to hyberbole drives him crazy and doesn’t help the situation in the moment). I felt like my needs were rarely considered and I was the one who usually ended up smoothing over the difficulty of the moment. So, I decided I wasn’t going to do it this time. I’d hold out until he made the effort to resolve the conflict (and yes, I recognize that goes everything I teach).
Three weeks later I was still waiting. What I saw as his lame efforts further inflamed the situation. Not surprisingly, things were heading south in a hurry. I become further entrenched and he stopped trying altogether.
Then, two days ago, he had an accident at work. A snow plow he was working on fell and hit his head. He suffered a serious head injury. They missed an arterial bleed in the hospital (a rant for another day) and left him sitting alone in his curtained wait area as he bled out. By the time they tended to him, he’d lost a lot of blood. He needed blood transfusions and a repair for both the arterial bleed and his ripped open scalp. The emergency doctor on duty wasn’t equipped, so many hours later an expert who’d been called in had to pull out the crisis-management stitches and redo the repairs.
I’m happy to report that my husband seems out of the woods now. But it got me to thinking. Things could easily have gone another way. How would I have coped with my last exchanges with him being my freeze-out of the prior three weeks? Was my attachment to my desired outcome worth the lost time? Clearly not.
So I thought it was worthwhile to share my experience to remind you to negotiate your personal relationships with the same level of care and attention that you give your business & professional relationships. I use the word ‘negotiate’ with intention. Think of these challenging interactions as negotiations. Prepare for them. Put in the work. In that way, you can engage in potentially difficult discussions in ways that avoid destructive reactivity. You can come up with more elegant and constructive solutions. You can choose paths forward that repair and strengthen the relationship, rather than threaten or tear them down.
And know that we’re human so you’ll falter sometimes. But in those moments when you falter, ask yourself: “If this is the last conversation that I ever get to have with this person that I love, would I be content to leave it like this?” If the answer to that question is ‘no’ then roll up your sleeves, take a pause and consider how to approach it more artfully, showing up as your best self.
Imagine the positive power of making that approach your default setting.