After two weeks of trying to get my daughter into a different swim class, the school finally agreed to change it. I wasn’t happy.
At our local swim school, any time one of my daughters moves up a skill level, it’s a herculean effort to get her into a class anywhere within cooee of my other child’s lesson.
This time, we’d been relegated to a lesson not only on a different day from our other daughter, but it was also too early for her to get to on time after school. I checked every day, but there were no other lessons available that were better for us. For the first two weeks, we took her out of school early to make the classes and then we’d had enough.
Luckily, I had been reading a book by a FBI hostage negotiator. It came in handy as I tried to negotiate with the “terrorists” in charge of my children’s swimming lesson time slots. It was do-or-die for me that day. I had to win.
So I summoned all the strategies I had gleaned in the book thus far and faced the receptionist at the swimming school.
Tip #1. Create empathy. Label their emotions
She smiled at me. “Yes,” she laughed.
I approached the desk: “Are you all ready for the hectic evening to begin?”
“It must be very difficult dealing with everyone all at once,” I observed.
Receptionist: “Yes, what can I do to help you?”
Me: “I want to move my daughter to a different class. The Thursday Swordfish class.”
Receptionist: “Has she been assessed to move up to this class?”
Me: “They told me on the telephone that she needed to do a few lessons in the new class, and then she could change.”
Receptionist: “But has she been assessed to move into the new class?”
Tip #2. Don’t say no directly
Me: “On the phone, they told me she could move after a few lessons and she can’t attend this class anymore after today.”
Receptionist: “I’ll have to check with an assessor, I’m not allowed to just move them up.”
Tip #3. Keep smiling
Me: “That’ll be great, thank you so much.”
The assessor came out, guns blazing. “Yeah,” she laughed at me. “That’s not the way it works. You don’t come in here and say you want to move. We need to assess them and we decide when they move up.” She laughed again.
I could feel my temperature rising.
Tip #4. Stay calm. Keep smiling
Me: “This class is not suitable for us to attend anymore.”
Assessor, condescendingly: “Would you like us to help you find a different class that’s more suitable for you?”
Me, feeling very angry and embarrassed, while reminding myself to stay cool, smile more and be genuinely appreciative: “Yes, that would be wonderful!”
Assessor leaves and receptionist checks computer for time slots I know are not available.
Her first suggestion: “How about Thursday, 5.15?”
Me: “Is that class at her current level?” (No classes had been available on Thursday prior to this point).
Me: “Yes, thank you, I’ll take that one!”
Tip #5. Smile and say thank you (even if you feel frustrated)
Me: “Thanks so much for your help, I really appreciate it!”
Being unhappy about getting what I wanted
I went back to my seat feeling unsettled about it. I left with exactly what I wanted—better than what I thought I could get—but the weird thing about the encounter was that even though I had won, I wasn’t happy.
Eventually I settled on what I didn’t like about it. They had laughed at me. They thought I was silly. They had exerted authority over me, put me in my place and they felt like they had won. I had allowed them to exercise authority over me and I felt like they had the emotional win.
Without meaning to, I had asked for something they would never give me. What people want most, more than money or even the thing they are asking for, is to feel that they have the emotional win.
That day I noticed in a new way that sometimes, in order to get what you want, you have to allow the other person to have the emotional win. And that’s actually quite a sacrifice.
I wanted to be “right” about my daughter’s swimming lessons. I wanted them to realise how unprofessional they were in not having enough suitable time slots available, in thinking that I had nothing better to do than run down to the pool every day of the week. That I had tried several times over the past few weeks but had no change of class to my name.
I had the moral high ground, but no action.
The ultimate sacrifice
When the FBI negotiate with terrorists, they can’t compromise. They cannot agree to set half the hostages free while allowing the other half to die and call it a good deal. So they give up the only thing they can—and as it turns out, the main thing terrorists really want—the emotional win. They let them feel like they are in charge, in control and calling the shots. In return, the FBI very often get what they want.
Jesus Himself “did not consider equality with God . . . rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. . . . He humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!“
In other words, He surrendered the moral high ground, even though it caused Him shame. He allowed Satan to feel like he had won. He did this in order to get what He wanted: To have a close relationship with humans again.
The same goes with your relationships. Compromise is not a good solution. You will both feel resentful. So get your hands in the air, give up the right to make your spouse wrong and start the process where both of you get everything you want.
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