Tuesday, December 22, 2009


(We need a little Christmas).

D$ and I are headed to my hometown for the holidays, until January 5th.

This means that the kitties will have full range of my clothes drawers and there may not be any posts for the next couple weeks.

No one in my family knows about this blog. In fact, I haven't told anyone but D$ and he is sworn to secrecy. (Turns out that is easy because he doesn't read it).

I have a huge family and we are...insistent. On constant interaction. I doubt that there will be any time when I am at a computer by myself. To be blunt: my older sister and I are really close and perhaps marginally obsessed with each other. Whenever we are in the same city she basically crawls up my ass and takes residence there.* ** So it is really not feasible that I would have time to write because she would see what I was doing I don't want to tell her about the blog, at least not yet.

I wish you the best possible holiday season. I'll be back after the New Year with tales of a first married Christmas.

*Figuratively, people!

**Don't worry. My sister and D$ get along really well, so he doesn't mind her presence. When we talk on the phone my sister will usually end the conversation with "Tell D$ I love him" or "Tell D$ I love him more than you," or some such nonsense.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

But let's be honest, here

Last night D$ and I went to a party with some people from his department. As we drove home and I saw the lights of downtown appear over the hill, I just felt it - that thing that has been knawing at me for several months, even as I try to figure out the best way to move forward. We hadn't been talking, just enjoying the view, but I broke the silence to finally put out what I've been feeling for a long time.

Me: I'm really scared to leave Minneapolis.

D$: Yea. I know.

(And so now you know where I live. I suck at being anonymous).

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Negotiation Epilogue: Women Don't Ask

  1. In a study conducted at Carnegie Mellon University, a professor found that among students graduating with Masters Degrees, 57 %of men and only 8 % of women negotiated the salary for the first job they received upon graduation.
  2. At age 22, a qualified man and women are offered the same job at $25,000/year. The man negotiates and get his offer raised to $30,000. The woman does not. Each of them receives a 3% raise per year. At age 60, the man will be making over $15,000/year more than the woman ($92,243 vs. $76,870). If you count up all the extra earnings over the 30 years, the man will have made $361, 171 more than the woman.
  3. A web survey reveals that women report much more anxiety about negotiation then men, and this can be true of even extremely powerful and successful women.
  4. When they do negotiate, women tend to be less successful than men, setting lower targets and giving in more quickly.

In the book Women Don't Ask: The High Cost of Avoiding Negotiation and Positive Strategies for Change, Linda Banock and Sara Laschever explore the phenomena listed above and the societal double standards that support them. They focus a lot on the gender norms that pervade our society and reward assertive behavior in men while punishing the same behavior in women. Some of the things they say I don't entirely agree with: one of the points they spend a lot of time on is that women are much more relationship-focused than men, leading them to emphasize relationships over getting what they want. While I see this as potentially possible (and totally true for me) I am loathe to generalize that much about women, or anyone.

However, they do make some incredible points about women and negotiation and the way that societal double standards create a triple whammy against women by
  1. Teaching them that assertiveness and self-interest isn't ladylike;
  2. Punishing women for assertive behavior (through things such as the "Bully Broads" program which was created to "soften" female executives. Gross) BUT THEN
  3. Viewing them as weak when they fail to demonstrate assertive behavior or negotiate on their own behalves.
I could go on and on here. And this isn't about marriage per se, except that in a lot of marriages there is at least one woman. And that if we women aren't thinking about these things and striving to work against them we may stand to lose out in ways that will affect our professions and our personal lives. That is one of the reasons that I have been writing these posts; because I truly believe that women need be encouraged to be assertive. I, as a woman, feel the need to encourage other women to negotiate.

To help you on your way here are the books I have been referencing, with brief descriptions.

  • This book is a little text-booky, and dense. But I got a lot of the information from the first two posts from this book.
2) Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In, by Roger Fisher, William Ury and Bruce Patton
  • This book looks like a silly self-help book. And...it may be a little bit of a silly self-help book. But it is also a quick read with a lot of easy, simple, good tips. It is also around $10. The stuff I wrote about focusing on interests over positions is from this book, mostly.
3) Women Don't Ask (mentioned above)
  • I only read a few chapters of this book (hey, I was only given a few chapters!) but I might read the whole thing. The website (linked above) talks about the broader topic of women and negotiation and I think features more books with specific tips
4) Beyond Reason by Roger Fisher and Dan Shapiro
  • Okay, so I haven't actually read this one at all. But I will! The woman who taught my negotiations class, who I deeply respect, recommended this to the class. Again, may be a little embarrassing to read on the bus as it looks like a self-help book, but whatever. We can just practice not caring what other people think of us.
Happy Negotiating!

Monday, December 14, 2009

I'm coming back tomorrow

I PROMISE. Finals end tomorrow at 12:30 p.m. and a blog-post will be on the way shortly after that.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Negotiating your way through marriage, Part 3: Expanding the Pie

More pie? Hells yea. Although, I'd have to say I'm technically on Team Cake.

Basically, "Expanding the Pie" is negotiator jargon for coming up with creative options so that you create a win-win situation and don't leave any resources "on the table." They argue that most people get concerned with "dividing the pie" and don't see creative ways to create value for both parties. Again, this is more easily applied to a stereotypical business negotiation situation: One party wants higher wages, the other party wants to cut costs. This seems like a pie-splitting situation: more money for one equals higher costs for the other. But what if there are ways that the first party can cut costs that would also allow them to increase their wages?

An example that is dear to my heart is: I really, really hate washing the dishes. A lot. D$ loves to cook and I love it when he cooks, but hate it when he makes a lot of dishes (because I would have eaten beans from a can and only made one dish). We could fight all damn day about who has to to the dishes, basically seeing it as a fixed-sum game. Either I have to buck up and do more dishes (and D$ has to listen to me bitch about it) or D$ has to do dishes when he makes extremely complicated meals. Either way one (or both) of us is going to lose. But wait! Do we have enough money in our budget for a dishwasher? Would that help us get our needs met and create mutual gain? The answer is: yes, it would. Using some of our money to get a dishwasher would solve the problem in question and we would both "win."
(As it turns out we rent and can't afford a dishwasher, but we have agreed that next time we move there will be a dishwasher).

That is an easy issue, but negotiation solutions aren't always that clear. Here are some of the tactics I have learned in class for expanding the pie and inventing mutual gain (applied, cause I'm self-involved, to D and my lives).

1) Unbundle the Issues. Expand the set of negotiable issues.

For us, some of the issues are:

  1. How much money do we want/need to make?
  2. Do we both want/need to work?
  3. What kind of jobs do we want to do?
  4. When do we want to have kids?
  5. Where do we want to have kids?
And on and on and on.

It is hard not to think about some of this as one big issue of "Where will our jobs take us?" but failing to unpack the issues will make it harder to make a decision. For example: I want to live in my home town so I can see my family more, but that doesn't necessarily have anything to do with our jobs. What if we get jobs that are far away but pay us enough to to allow for frequent travel? If we don't unpack all the issues we might miss that kind of option.

An example from one my texts is separating the price of something from the terms of sale or lease. Let's say one person is really concerned about getting price A for a good, but the buyer doesn't want to pay that price. It turns out that for the buyer it isn't really the price that is the issue, it's that they want to pay over a series of months rather than years. If the two people can decide on a payment plan that will allow the seller to receive price A on the buyer's timetable, then they will both be happy and the sale will go through. But if they just negotiate price they might walk away from the deal, or one person might accept a price that they are unhappy with.

2) Separate Inventing from Deciding. First of all, you have to broaden your options by brainstorming. But create a space where you can come up with creative options without worrying whether or not they are something each party could live with.

For D$ and I this will be very important, since we have so many issues on the table.
Some potential scenarios:
  1. I mentioned before, one possibility is for us to live separately.
  2. If he gets an awesome job we could move up the baby-making schedule and I could take a few years to stay home with the kiddies while he works that job. We could then switch, or move to where I could begin work that I'm interested in.
I don't know that I like either one of those options, but we aren't in the decide phase. We are in the brainstorm phase, and having all the options out on the table will help us to sort through the possibilities (and will probably help us clarify what our true interests are).

3) Come up with several equally satisfactory "packages."

For example:

I'd be happy living far from my hometown if we both had awesome jobs, got to have a house with a yard, and could make X amount of money a year.

I'd be happy making only Y amount a year if it meant that we were living in my hometown, working in fields that interested us, and could start planning for baby-making time.

I'd be willing to live apart if we made enough money to see each other once a month and both had extremely amazing jobs putting us on career trajectories that would allow us to move to my hometown (or near it) within 3 years.

And so and and so on. The thing about the multiple packages, is you have to know your own interests, and you have to be able to prioritize what is important to you. But you would also benefit from knowing what the other party's interests are so you can create your "packages" in a way that is attractive to them, so Parts 1 and 2 are important here.

I think I've gone on too long (if you've made it to the end of the post congrats)! So I'll stop for today.

I can't tell if I'm beating a dead horse with this negotiation stuff...should I stop now or continue? I think I've hit the stuff that is most essential, but I could do one more post if y'all aren't totally sick of this crap by now.

Sunday, December 6, 2009


Being by yourself is really, really great.

D$ still can't open his mouth very far or eat anything with chunks, but he is at a friend's house to watch a football game. Which leaves me home alone to write a paper, drink a glass of wine, and listen to The Nutcracker and The Boston Camarata's "An American Christmas" at full volume.

More negotiation tactics tomorrow...

Friday, December 4, 2009

Brief Interruption

We had a minor medical emergency today; D$ got his wisdom teeth pulled out, it went awry and we had to go back to the hospital. All is well, but now I am plying him with drugs and milkshakes, so the blog will be quiet for the weekend.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Negotiating your way through marriage, Part 2: The Power of Preparation

Okay, so, this seems a little obvious, right? Being prepared is basically always a good idea (a small boy in a khaki uniform told me that once, I think). But...it is totally easier said than done. And this is probably, again, one of those things that would be even harder to manage in a marriage. Why in the world would I need to prepare to talk to my Hubs about who should do the dishes or why we should get fourteen puppies? It does seem sorta dumb, and it is true that preparation is probably more important in a professional negotiation situation like negotiating a job offer or a pay raise, but...let's just go with it.

Here is what the negotiation books have to say (and yes, at some point I will tell you the names of the books as well, I'm no plagiarist).

1) Self-assessment. What do you want? I talked about this a fair amount yesterday so I'll leave it at this, but it is still important to say. If you don't know what you want how will you know if you got it?

2) Know your BATNA Oh yea, I threw down an obscure acronym. BATNA stands for Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement, and I like cause it sounds like Batman and it is really, really important.

Basically: what will happen if you can't come to an agreement? What will you do, or what will the other person do? What is your alternative? How strong is your alternative compared to the person you are negotiating against? That last one is related to power relationships in the negotiation: if one person has a really attractive alternative than they are less likely to need to come to an agreement and one way you can increase the amount of power or leeway you have in a negotiation is to strengthen your own BATNA, or try and weaken the other party's BATNA. Some of that might not be so awesome for a marital situation; I don't think I want to advocate trying to strengthen your position against your spouse. But you can still benefit from knowing your realistic alternative.

Example: For D and I right now, the "alternative" is living apart after we graduate. (I'm not going to go there and say the alternative is the big D word. Because that just isn't an alternative to this situation). In the realm of human possibility we could live apart for a while and pursue our own professional interests. However, neither one of us wants to do that at all: so we both have the same BATNA, and it sucks. This means that we are both really invested in coming to an agreement that we can both live with.

2) Determine your Target Point and your Reservation Point

Your Target Point is basically your ideal. My target point is each of us having awesome jobs that pay us reasonable salaries (wait, it's my target point: GINORMOUS salaries!) in my home town.

Your Reservation Point is the point-which-you-shall-not-pass. In negotiation there may be some things you are willing to concede but there will be other things that you absolutely are not willing to accept or give up. Rather than go past your reservation point you will "Activate your BATNA," walk away from the table, cease negotiating, etc etc. Get the hell outta there.

You're supposed to figure out your reservation point beforehand and, if possible, write it down, or have it in your head clearly. If this is a financial issue that is easy enough: although I'd like to buy a house at X price, I can go up to Y price but then that is IT. This isn't so realistic in a marriage, when you will be negotiating all the time, and it is harder with matters of the heart - how do you quantify the need to feel professionally fulfilled or to live close to your family? But it might still be helpful to think about, and people work this out various ways. Maybe "I could live 60 miles from a city but not 120," or "I'm willing to clean the bathroom all the goddamn time but I am sure as hell not killing any cockroaches if any appear in our house."

Right now we are still working out our reservation points (which are pretty intricately tied to our interests, of course). In some ways our reservation points are the same as our BATNA - we are not willing to live apart, so we have to come up with something.

But within our situation there are other things for which we we can determine a reservation point. Example: D$ could potentially get a high-paying job in a far away city, and we have to decide what we want to do about that. So, what is our reservation point; how far is too far?
If we can figure that out, we have a plan. That way, if one of us gets an amazing job opportunity that offers us trillions of dollars but is in the Bermuda Triangle, we don't run the risk of getting caught up in dollar signs and signing on for a job that will make both of us miserable. We can say: "Well, wait, look: our reservation point was "No ocean-crossing" or "Only two time zones" or whatever." Having a reservation point doesn't mean you can't change it as situations change, but it does help you from getting caught up in the moment and making a decision that you will later regret.

I think I have gone on long enough for tonight. More to come soon! Although maybe not tomorrow because tomorrow is my 13 hour day.

Also - I would like to state for the record that neither one of us will be offered trillions of dollars. What is most likely to happen is someone will offer me $30,000 to work 60 hours a week in an immigrant rights organization or public assistance office...and I will jump up and down with joy and be totally thrilled. After negotiating the hell out of that salary and benefits package, to be sure.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Negotiating your way through marriage, Part 1

I am currently taking a course on Negotiations that is being taught by a prominent local elected official and I really, really love it. As the semester has moved on we have done a lot of background reading and performed various negotiations ourselves and I really feel like I am gaining valuable skills. But as I have been learning how to apply negotiating skills to professional situations I have also been thinking about how the skills I am learning can and will be really useful in my marriage. I see particular possibility for this as D and I move through the various big conversations that we will need to have as we decide what to do with our lives.

The term "negotiation" sometimes gives people a strange feeling; people get flashes of Donald Trump banging his fist on the table and a room full of old white men making extreme poker-faces. And for that reason people (especially women, I'll get to this later) are really uncomfortable with the idea of negotiating in families or friendships, not to mention marriages. But this is really silly. First of all, the kind of positional power-play bargaining that is the "face" of Donald Trump-style negotiation is actually NOT effective negotiation most of the time. In fact, one of the tenets of good negotiating is the ability to come to an agreement with someone while maintaining a continued relationship with that person. Second of all, you will end up negotiating with your partner all the time anyway, so you might as well learn how to do it well.

Honestly, I think that openly negotiating in marriage is a really good idea, and I think that many of the skills I am learning will really, really help as the hubs and I work through the next several months and the rest of our lives. And I know that some of you are in similar situations, so in the interest of idea-sharing and general negotiation-promotion, in the next few posts I am going to share some of the "main" negotiation skills I have learned and apply them to our upcoming situation. I may end with some more general negotiation lessons (particularly for us women-folk),we'll see.

For today, Lesson One is:

1) Focus on interests, not positions. If you do not know what someone's interests are, ask them.

The focus on interests is key here - because D and I both have professional interests, we have personal interests for ourselves as individuals, and we have family interests (as in, what we want for our new family). It is highly likely that our professional interests will directly contradict each other and while our family interests may be shared, they may also be divergent, and we need to be able to talk about that openly and honestly. As I've mentioned before there is potential for a lot of emotional struggle here. But if we can focus on each other's interests (i.e. family is really really important to me) before moving forward into specific "positions" (i.e. I have an awesome job in Canada) then the whole process might be both more fair and less emotionally fraught.

And the asking is really important as well. If we openly ask each other: "What are your personal interests, desires, goals? What are my personal interests, desires, goals? How does this relate to profession? To family?" We not only create space for discussion but we make it okay for each one of us to have those desires. In situations like ours both people can feel guilty for wanting what they want, or for not wanting something, and there is incentive to hide one's true feelings. But having a discussion about our basic underlying interests makes it okay to want.

Asking is also important because when you live with someone it is easy to think you know what they want or what their priorities are. But this is never, never something anyone should assume. Everyone should have the chance to speak their piece and be heard, especially in a marriage, and even if you ask and they say exactly what you thought they would, it is likely that the person will still appreciate having been asked the question.

I think that is all for lesson one.

Next up: 80% of Negotiation is Preparation.