HIGH STAKES NEGOTIATION STRATEGY

They don’t teach this in law school

Over the course of 35 years in the practice of law, I have negotiated many things – settlements of multi-million-dollar lawsuits and class actions, employment matters, the sale of companies, regulatory issues, et cetera. Back when I was young, it was sometimes very small matters like fender-benders or evictions. Over time, I have faced off with some very fine lawyers, and sometimes with some not-so-fine lawyers. Unquestionably the hardest negotiation I have ever encountered, however, was just this morning with my three-year old grandson. (I don’t want to get all political on you, but I’m just saying – there are people who are pushing to do away with the age of competency for children to make critical decisions.) It went sort of like this:

SCENE:   Daddy (Bobby) drops Palmer off at Bebe’s house in his Christmas dinosaur pajamas on April 8, 2021 at 6:45 a.m. Palmer is sick, sleepy and cranky. Palmer is sitting in the entry hallway on the carpet runner with his arms crossed over his chest and his bottom lip out.

Daddy:                  Bebe, I’m putting the two prescription bottles here on the counter with the Ibuprofen and Benadryl.Now Palmer, be good for Bebe, and after you eat something, take your medicine.

Palmer:                I don’t like it. It’s yucky.

Daddy:                 But you have to take it, okay? See ya later, buddy.

Bebe:                     Palmer, do you want something to eat? Some cereal?

Palmer:                No!

Bebe:                    Palmer, you wanna watch TV?

Palmer:                No!

Bebe:                    Do you wanna go back to bed?

Palmer:                No!

Bebe:                    [Carrying her coffee to LR sofa] Palmer, do you want to sit over here and watch some cartoons?

Palmer:                No!

[Palmer heads to bedroom. Bebe jumps back up from sofa and grabs coffee to follow him. Palmer climbs on bed and pulls covers up to chest.]

Bebe:                   Are you cold? Here, let me help you. Do you want to watch T.V.?

Palmer:                I wanna watch Power Rangers.

Bebe:                   Your mama and daddy said no watching Power Rangers. [Bebe scrolls through streaming suggestions.] PJ Masks? Spiderman? Cars? Toys? Scooby Doo? Cocomelon? Blippi? Go Dog Go?

Palmer:                Cocomelon!

[Bebe sits in chair next to bed and drinks coffee while singing along to The Wheels on the Bus and other earworm tunes. Two episodes in of Cocomelon, the mom pulls out a multi-colored popsicle from a picnic basket.]

Palmer:                Bebe, I wanna popsicle.

Bebe:                    Okay, but you have to take your medicine in a little bit, okay?

 [exit stage right to kitchen for a popsicle; returns and hands popsicle to Palmer; Palmer happily takes the red popsicle]

Bebe:                    Palmer, don’t let that thing melt on my bedspread.

[Palmer, ignores Bebe and waves popsicle around while continuing to watch two more episodes of Cocomelon]

Palmer:                Bebe, do you have any bacon?

Bebe:                     Yes, do you want bacon?

Palmer:                Yes. Do you have eggs?

Bebe:                     Yes, I have eggs. Do you want eggs?

Palmer:                 Yes. Can I help?

[Palmer pulls step stool up to counter. They make eggs and bacon. Bebe takes plates to table.]

Palmer:                Can I watch something on your phone?

Bebe:                     Yes, what do you want to watch?

Palmer:                Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Bebe:                     It’s okay for you to watch Ninja Turtles but not Power Rangers?

Palmer:                Yes.

Bebe:                    What’s it on? Netflix?

Palmer:                Yes.

[Bebe searches on Netflix.]

Bebe:                     It’s not there. Let me try Prime.

Palmer:                There it is!

Bebe:                   Yes, but it’s not free – you have to rent it or buy it. What about something else?

Palmer:                I wanna watch Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Bebe:                     I know, let me try YouTube. There it is!

[Palmer eats one slice of bacon and no eggs. Climbs in Bebe’s lap, preventing her from eating. The Shredder systematically annihilates the turtles and others.]

Palmer:                Bebe that’s scary. I don’t wanna watch Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Bebe:                    Okay, let’s take your medicine.

Palmer:                No! It’s yucky.

Bebe:                    Palmer, you won’t get well if you don’t take your antibiotic.

[Palmer runs into bedroom and jumps on bed.]

Palmer:                I wanna watch Go Dog Go.

Bebe:                   Okay, but you’re going to have to take that medicine in a little bit. I’m going to take a shower. When I get out, you have to take your medicine.

[Bebe takes shower. Palmer bursts into bathroom waving a medicine bottle.]

Bebe:                    Palmer, what’s that?

Palmer:                My medicine.

Bebe:                    How did you get that?

Palmer:                From the counter.

Bebe:                    Don’t open that.

[Palmer tries to open the medicine.]

Bebe:                    Palmer, wait. What is that? That’s Benadryl. You have to take your antibiotic.

Palmer:                This is okay. The ‘amnibotic’ is yucky.

Bebe:                    Well, the antibiotic is what’s going to make you better. You want to get better don’t you?

Palmer:                It’s yucky. I don’t want it.

[Palmer returns to the bed.]

Bebe:                     If you take your medicine, I will take you to get a toy. How about that?

Palmer:                I wanna red motorcycle.

Bebe:                   Okay, let me get dressed and we’ll go to Walmart.

[Bebe gets dressed. Sits down in chair next to bed.]

Bebe:                    Okay, now you have to get dressed.

Palmer:                I have to potty.

Bebe:                    Okay, well go!

[Palmer returns from potty with no pajama bottoms and no underwear.]

Bebe:                    Run get your clothes.

[Palmer exits stage right and returns waving a pair of black Nike shorts, underpants and tee shirt.]

Palmer:                [crying] I don’t wanna wear shorts!

[Bebe exits stage right; returns.]

Bebe:                    Palmer, these are the only clothes your mommy sent.

[Palmer crawls back into bed and crosses arms over his chest. Spread Eagle; butt-naked below.]

Bebe:                    If you don’t put clothes on we can’t go to Walmart.

Palmer:                I don’t want to wear shorts.

Bebe:                     I will buy you some long pants at Walmart, but you have to put some clothes on.

Palmer:                I’m cold.

Bebe:                    Okay, let’s put your pajama bottoms back on.

Palmer:                No! They’re wet.

[Bebe snatches pajama bottoms off carpet where he discarded them.]

Bebe:                     Well, we can’t go if you’re naked.

[Palmer gets off of bed and puts underpants on. Captain America and the placket are in back.]

Bebe:                    You put your underwear on backwards.

Palmer:                They aren’t backwards.

[Palmer walks away towards door, butt cheeks hanging out the back. Returns, puts shorts on backwards.]

Bebe:                    Come let me help you. Your shorts are on backwards.

Palmer:                No, they’re not.

[Palmer starts crying because his clothes are uncomfortable. Lets Bebe help him.]

Bebe:                     All right, it’s time to take your medicine.

Palmer:                I don’t like it. I don’t want to.

Bebe:                    We can’t go to Walmart and get a toy if you don’t take it.

Palmer:                It’s yucky.

Bebe:                    I’ll tell you what – I have a frozen Icee pack – what about you take the medicine and wash it down with Icee.

[Exit stage right to kitchen. Bebe pours a cup each of the pink antibiotic and another clear prescription. Hands Palmer the Icee.]

Palmer:                I don’t want to take it.

Bebe:                    Drink some Icee.

Palmer:                How ‘bout I put Icee in the medicine.

Bebe:                    Okay.

[Palmer pours Icee in both cups. Takes the cup of clear medicine and gags.]

Bebe:                    That’s great, Palmer. Now let’s take the antibiotic.

Palmer:                It’s yucky. I don’t like it.

Bebe:                    You have to take it.

Palmer:                What about I put some more Icee in it.

Bebe:                    Okay, whatever.

[Palmer fills medicine cup to brim with Icee.]

Bebe:                    Wait! It’s going to spill when you take it.

[Bebe helps Palmer put it to his mouth. He starts gagging and pushes it away, sloshing it on counter.]

Bebe:                     Palmer!

[Bebe goes to grab paper towels. Palmer pours half the antibiotic into the other empty medicine cup. Adds Icee to both cups to point of spilling.]

Bebe:                     Palmer! Okay it’s all diluted now, so drink up.

Palmer:                I’m not drinking that. It’s yucky. [starts crying]

Bebe:                    Okay, okay, let’s just go to Walmart.

The End

GO AHEAD, TAKE MY ADVICE

“Experience is the best teacher, but a fool will learn from no other.” Benjamin Franklin

I’m rather a nut for pithy quotes and I’m a lawyer and a mother, so when I ran across a little magnet that said: “Go ahead, take my advice – I’m not using it anyway,” it spoke to me in three ways. First, unless you ever worked as an attorney for a corporation, I’m not sure you’ll appreciate this completely, but business people almost never want to conform to whatever the lawyer is telling them to do or not to do. Second, as a mother of three daughters, a lot of perfectly good advice went into and out of three sets of ears. Finally, if I’m being perfectly candid, I’m better at preaching than practicing myself. I acquired that little magnet and put it on my credenza book shelf, but apparently it did not speak to any of the people for whom it was intended, myself included.

When there were news papers that people held in their hands and read everyday, there were advice columns. Two of the most famous were Ann Landers and Abigail Van Buren (“Dear Abby”). They were identical twin sisters and their advice was spot on. Their columns revealed such good judgment and sound advice over the years that I have to believe they gained it from being raised by the same mother. Alas, it only takes a quick Google search to learn that the once close sisters became estranged from one another and that Ann Landers was divorced after 36 years of marriage, so maybe they didn’t always take their own advice either.

This year is one of those milestone birthday years for me. I’m going to be 60 in August. Six decades of getting advice I didn’t use. Going on four decades of handing out advice that other people didn’t use. When I think of all the good advice I’ve squandered over the years, it makes me a little nauseous. Will Rogers said: “Good judgment comes from experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgment.” Guilty. Is everyone doomed or just me?

I see and know people who look like they have it all together, so I have to believe that some people are capable of taking advice and learning from others’ experiences. As I edge into this final quarter, it makes me want to pass along the sage advice I squandered over the years and reveal the lessons I learned the hard way just in case someone is listening. Hope springs eternal as they say.