Relationships, both good and bad, are products of negotiation. One way to look at the status of our relationship with someone is to see it as an account at the bank. Our daily actions contribute to the goodwill we put into the relationship account. Everything we say or do builds or reduces the account and affects the other person’s attitude toward us. Relationships are an ongoing negotiation, though they are rarely seen that way.

There is a certain set of issues- intangible issues- that people feel strongly about but find difficult to discuss. Examples of these might be respect and how it is demonstrated, feeling supported and understood, and other intangible issues such as these which are the building blocks of harmonious relationships. Our relationship to another person can be seen as the sum total of the attitudes and beliefs we have about them, and them about us.

Most commercial contract negotiations are conducted in a quiet room with two or more persons sitting on opposite sides of a desk or table discussing their positions or matters on which they disagree. This is not the case in relationship negotiations. There, intangible issues are negotiated in an informal way as the parties interact on a daily basis. They negotiate relationships through indirect communication, overt behavior and body language clues.

Relationship issues are rarely, if ever, addressed in open forums. Yet, at the same time, these same relationship issues have the weight to change the course of negotiation. Wouldn’t it make sense to do a relationship ‘bank account check’ before you go into your next negotiation?

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