Negotiating Lessons From Little Leaguers

DTigers2.114929I recently completed another season of coaching my son’s (5) Little League team.  This year we did Coach Pitch so we threw to them and hoped they made contact.  Then prayed no one took a line drive to the face while daydreaming in the field.  Each week we practiced between 4 and 5 PM on Thursdays at the Bad News Bears Field (real name) near Westwood.  Like clockwork, each week at 4:40 the same ice cream truck pulled up next to the field playing the familiar music embedded in our minds from childhood.  Our already less than focused kids immediately went into a trance and locked in on that damn truck.  Then without exception, as we left practice and walked past the truck my son asked if he could get some ice cream.  Each time I gave the same response and said no.  This always followed by a “why not?” from my son and then my answer “it’s dinner time so we can’t get ice cream before dinner”.  This went on for 10 weeks straight.

This weekly exchange led me to thinking about the lessons we can learn from kids about negotiating.  Here are the top 5…

  1. Persistence – It did not matter that I said no each week to the ice cream.  He continued to ask every time.  He never lost faith that at some point I might say yes.
  2. Understanding – After each rejection he always asked “why not?”  He wanted to know what my objections were to see if he could change my mind.
  3. Enthusiasm – Even though he probably knew after several attempts the inevitable answer, he always asked with enthusiasm and a big smile on his face.  “Can we get some ice cream”!!!!!  This made saying no so much harder.
  4. Creativity – After getting denied at the practice field, he always served up a counter offer.  “Can I have ice cream after dinner?”  I usually countered with yes, but with a contingency on eating all of his food.  In the end, he got his ice cream.
  5. Compromise – Each night following dinner, desert, bath and books the negotiating continues with bedtime.  It begins by us saying it’s time for bed.  Our clever son then asks for ten more minutes and we counter with five.  He accepts with a slight sigh, but also with a little smile leaving me to believe the extra five is all he really wanted in the first place.