Negotiation lessons you can learn from your cat
As workshop participant or blog reader you know what I am referring to when speaking about the “shark”, the “bear” or the “cat” as negotiation types. The readers of my bestselling “Master Negotiator” even have a drawing in their book:
All the characteristics of this negotiation type and how to handle him are described there.
Today I want to share with you some final thoughts regarding my inspiration for the type “cat” and one of my personal “Master Negotiators”, my real cat Assuad. By his behavior he (a tomcat, and I can´t bring myself to say “it”) gave me ideas and the possibility to observe from first hand experience how to obtain pretty much everything you want and still become your best friend. So it seems only fair enough to honor him now he has gone from me for good.
As Master Negotiator he sure got a good deal out of life. I mean, he did get good food (and ever more of it), had a warm house and was sheltered and cared for every moment in his life. As companion of a writer and expert doing a lot of reading and research at his home office he enjoyed every new idea for my new books and articles, every new exercise for a workshop first. Many a thought that people would later applaud to in my speeches had he helped develop by his mere presence and listening skills. Cat owners among will confirm that he really was listening, just pretending to be sleeping at my table, which you could verify by his sudden comments and the fact that would have no qualms leaving at once if my performance was too long, monotone or otherwise not exciting enough (not bound by any idea of politeness).
There was a lot to negotiate, from the amount and the times of food over who would be allowed to sleep at what place to how long I could stay out of the house without having him complain bitterly on my return. As particularly difficult I remember the negotiations over who I should rather play with and pay attention to, my children or him. Of course he solved it like a Master in the end as he would sit on the most interesting peace of action so everyone would play with him.
He was perfect in ensuring he would never be perceived as an adversary to anyone (ok, there were times when he woke me up 4 in the morning to prepare food which came close to hating him, but was made up for by sitting next to the food bowl enjoying a still moment together in the dark).
Regarding give & take I admit I did buy and pay his food, medicine, cat litter, toys and various treats and other things with nothing material coming in return. Still, he gave me something much more valuable: his love, his understanding, his time, warmth and affection. Many people seem to think that (negotiation) relationships are about the exchange of physical, material things only. This is the Zeitgeist and might sometimes make sense for short term relationships (e.g. buying a house).
However, negotiation relationships are also a way of relating and bonding with each other, opportunities to share our understanding of this world, this temporary universe for all of us. Understanding negotiations this way would make it so much easier to learn from each other and closing negotiations not only with a practical result, but with the warm feeling inside we sometimes are allowed to take away from a good open chat or a conflict solved respectfully . Equally, a negotiation partner who will be ready to sharing your success and failure as a partner, as compared to winning at your cost, is what you should be looking for in life.
What I will be missing so much is my cats capacity to share my joy and excitement as well as my sadness and bad times. Assuad would be there with me and share those feelings, thereby doubling my joy and splitting my sadness. After all, we are social animals and sometimes seem to have lost that basic quality in life. It is not about the end (which always will be death, for all of us), but the way to get there.
I will never have the chance to negotiate anything with you again, Assuad, my personal Master Negotiator. But I will remember you and the lessons you allowed me to learn from you. Always.
Rest in peace, my beloved cat. I will miss you and our daily negotiations terribly.