Ellyn Bader

How many decisions will you make with your honey over the holidays? Whether you guess fifty or five hundred, I guarantee that you will make even more. The holidays are full of choices: gifts, guests, travels, money, menus, and more. And many of these decisions are made begrudgingly, especially as the
calendar fills up and every day becomes a challenge of “who needs to do what by when.”

Some of these decisions and negotiations will generate more heat than a roaring forest fire. So here's a method to turn down the heat blasts and make your holidays a little more cozy. It's a new way to think about “who needs to do what by when.”

This process helps you avoid the two most common negotiation mistakes.

Mistake #1. You cave in too quickly to keep the peace or to avoid an argument. If you do this too often you know the result–creeping resentment that can spread like a bad oil slick.

Mistake #2. Bullying, persuading, cajoling until you get your way. However, you rationalize this by thinking you are simply a tough negotiator. Frankly, you've been too thick to get the connection between getting your way and a lack of affection and support from your honey.

Here's how to do a course correction that can bring peace, harmony, love and joy to your holiday division of labor.

First you both agree you will experiment with the following method.

Second, decide on a chore or responsibility that needs to be done. Choose one that neither of you wants to do.

Then set aside some time to ask each other questions about the chore and the difficulties doing it. Take turns asking questions, and listen–truly listen–to the answers. Try to hear something new about each other. Don't just listen for opportunities to boost your case or criticize your partner.

When you believe you understand the major concerns, make a suggestion in this form.

“Honey, what I suggest is …, this suggestion works for me because …. and it could (not should) work for you because…”
Be sure to include why it COULD work for your partner, not why it should work for them!

By describing why the suggestion works for you, you avoid the temptation to capitulate too quickly. You have to think of your own interests.

By describing why the suggestion works for your partner, you avoid the temptation to think only of yourself.

After your suggestion, your partner responds. They may agree with it or they might suggest an alternative. They will also use the same formula of why their suggestion works for them and why it could work for you.

Those people who are able to experiment with these concepts will be toasting each other instead of roasting each other at the end of this holiday season.

Happy holidays,
Ellyn Bader and Peter Pearson

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© Copyright MMIV The Couples Institute

About 

Ellyn Bader, Ph.D., is Co-Founder & Director of The Couples Institute and creator of The Developmental Model of Couples Therapy. Ellyn is widely recognized as an expert in couples therapy, and since 2006 she has led innovative online training programs for therapists. Professionals from around the world connect with her through internet, conference calls and blog discussions to study couples therapy.

Ellyn’s first book, "In Quest of the Mythical Mate," won the Clark Vincent Award by the California Association of Marriage & Family Therapists for its outstanding contribution to the field of marital therapy and is now in its 18th printing. She has been featured on over 50 radio and television programs including "The Today Show" and "CBS Early Morning News," and she has been quoted in many publications including "The New York Times," "The Oprah Magazine" and "Cosmopolitan."

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