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Intimate Negotiating

By JemmaBlythe Alexander Shelton-Spurr (JB Shelton)

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In the committed, close, personal relationships we regard as intimate, negotiating is perpetual. These are the people we know best and who know us best. We can improve our intimate negotiating skills and results by examining interactions between traditional husband and wife duos and variations thereon. Couples who live, play and work together — in a family business or entrepreneurial endeavor — provide additional dynamics. These negotiating techniques provide positive results both personally and professionally.

Say What You Mean: Mean What You Say

In Brad Meltzer’s The Inner Circle the author states, “There’s nothing more intimate in life than simply being understood. And understanding someone else.”

Your skills as an intimate negotiator reach beyond the words you say and write. They reach into the heart of effective communications and to the fearful environs of whispering to hide the truth and screaming to get your points across. No one said it would be easy. If they had, they were wrong.

Communicating effectively means with each other, scheduled in advance as much as possible to avoid bad timing, bad moods and bad karma. It means taking advantage of those things you both naturally agree about. It also means thinking through individual skills, talents and preferences and sharing the wealth and frustrations of life’s responsibilities. Not talking honestly leads to not making decisions, which leads to anger about priorities not getting done.

We respond as if we could read each other’s minds. We answer questions before our beloved finishes asking them. In anger, we reveal intimate knowledge in public situations.

Declare Peace in the Battle of the Sexes

Be certain you and your partner discuss and agree about priorities that concern you both. Acknowledge the common points you both resonate positively about. Agree to disagree peacefully and go one step beyond: Don’t reiterate how you wisely agree not to disagree. Focus on those things that provide mutual satisfaction.

Whether you consider yourself overworked or under-appreciated (or both), the idea of coming to terms about non-negotiable items as realities will brighten your lives. Identify items you consider non-negotiable. Come to terms on these items prior to proceeding with negotiable items. For example, your non-negotiable item is attending church every Sunday. Your spouse’s is not being reminded that sports car he bought in a fit of mid-life crisis was a mistake. Non-negotiable items, once agreed upon, are not subjects of discussion or derision.

Don’t fall for gender stereotypes. Women who ask questions want more than a patient listener; they want advice and solutions. Men are willing to share problems when women don’t automatically change the topics to their own difficulties.

Cut the drama and the generalizations. Relationships will always have hot-button issues that wreak havoc with effective communications. The more important and complicated the issue, the more likely one or both negotiators will become dramatic, illogical and frightened.

Try the technique of breathing deeply, smiling, stretching and calming yourself in words, attitudes and physicalities. Declare a time-out if talk is just a maddening waste of time, but agree on how long that time-out will last. Be wary of saying ‘you always,’ and ‘you never.’

The delicate nature of not wanting to hurt the other person’s feelings requires active self-discipline. Sarcasm, accusations, over-reacting, changing topics, holding grudges, and unnecessarily bringing up the past into the present will only hurt everyone involved.


Timing is one of the most delicate matters between couples. Even larks (early risers) and owls (late preferers) can learn to live together. Differing body rhythms can be positive if used wisely, allowing for privacy and time for contemplation without interruptions. Vow to value your partner’s time.

Be present and attentive to each other. Technology, albeit timesaving, can destroy intimacy. Compulsive connectivity ought not replace real-time conversations. Smile at each other over the breakfast table without staring down at your iPads.

Elizabeth Gilbert, Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage wrote, “Every intimacy carries secreted somewhere below its initial lovely surfaces, the ever-coiled makings of complete catastrophe.” Yet every intimacy carries above its surfaces multiple opportunities to create loving, productive, fulfilling lives together.

JB Shelton Photo
JemmaBlythe Alexander Shelton-Spurr (JB Shelton) is a journalist based in Raleigh and Oxford, NC. She writes about children growing up and grownups reinventing themselves. JB teaches Professional Negotiating Skills: Transforming Life’s Challenges into Win-Win Results at Duke University in Durham, NC.  Angel in Your Mirror: Musings from the Curly Mind of JB Shelton-Spurr is available on Reach her by e-mail at [email protected].

Copyright ©2013 JemmaBlythe Alexander Shelton-Spurr
Copyright ©   2013  The Negotiator Magazine
The Negotiator Magazine  March 2013