Three different issues and three different styles of negotiating have been dominating the headlines in recent weeks – Ukraine, the Windsor Framework linked to the Northern Ireland Protocol and the Coronation Guest list – particularly in relation to the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.

In the case of the Ukraine, at least in their public utterances, Presidents Putin and Zelensky are clear that there are no compromises to be made and victory is what they are looking for.  In the case of the Coronation, it’s harder to ascertain what the Duke and Duchess are wanting.  An apology?  A front row seat for them both? Equal standing with the Prince and Princess of Wales?  Whatever the case, as in his recent conversation with Gabor Mate the Duke is not afraid, so it seems, to take his negotiating into the public arena.  The Windsor Framework has been very different with many complex discussions going on behind closed doors and any information being shared, much to the frustration of some of the commentators, on a strictly ‘need to know’ basis.

All of these approaches, in my experience have their parallels in terms of the negotiations that need to go on in any and every relationship.  Sometimes I will see a couple where one, or possibly both partners are only going to be satisfied with what they see to be ‘their victory’.  The result of such an approach does little to benefit the couple and usually results in a very conflictual and unhappy relationship.

Constantly taking relational disputes into the public domain, be that on social media or amongst a wide group of family and friends, can also mean that very little space is left for the compromises that are so often needed.  Again in my experience it is often much better to limit the detail of the negotiation to the couple themselves, helped by their therapist or a few close friends – a ‘Windsor Framework’ approach for want of a better description.

In doing that I often encourage couples to think about a few general approaches as they seek to resolve their differences and to plan a better way forward for the future.

8 tips to negotiating with your partner.

  • Find a good time to talk when you have some time and aren’t going to be interrupted by children or work calls and not when you are just running out of the door.
  • Talk about your feelings in an open and clear way.
  • Think about what it is you need out of the situation and be willing to express that.  Don’t assume that your partner will intuitively understand.
  • Reflect on what feelings are brought up around the issue and what it might be triggering in you.  Why do you feel so strongly about this issue?
  • Remember that you are on the same team.
  • Use ‘I’ statements.  Don’t start telling your partner about what their feelings and thoughts are – leave them to do that.
  • Listen to understand your partner not just preparing your defence and counter position.  Listen and reflect back what you have heard – and seek to clarify with a few questions if needed.  Put yourself in your partner’s shoes for a few minutes.
  • It is good for compromise to go both ways in a relationship – there are going to be times when we each feel particularly strongly about something or other, but be open to changing your position, not every time but sometimes.

And remember you don’t have to agree on everything to be in a strong relationship.  Good disagreements can be immensely creative.

Sarah Fletcher