My son starts college at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois next week. Time flies! As the son of an author, he recently bought a book for my wife and me entitled “The Naked Roommate [For Parents Only]: A Parent’s Guide to the New College Experience.” I guess he wanted to ensure we appropriately “negotiated” with him during his college years.
Of course, we read it. And author Harlan Cohen has some good advice regarding how to effectively engage with your college kids/young adults. Here are a few of my negotiation-related nuggets from it, which apply equally powerfully in many other negotiations, too.
· Listen and ask questions first and don’t jump to conclusions based on your initial reaction when he/she/they tell you about their challenges.
· Don’t try to solve all their problems, be it with their roommates or friends, even if you know how to do it. You both have an interest in their figuring it out for themselves and, hopefully, effectively addressing them. Of course, share if/when they ask, but do so after asking for their suggestions.
· As in any problem-solving negotiation, focus on your and their goals and interests and not their positions. If they are considering pledging a fraternity or sorority (their position), ask “why” and explore their interests. Is it to provide a structured social environment and help them find friends with similar interests in a large university, or is it just because you did?
· Suggest they spend quality time exploring and prioritizing their own goals and interests, which may include academic, social, health, financial, philanthropic, career, intellectual, etc. Offer to brainstorm these with them if they want. But remember – it’s their interests, not yours.
· One of my biggest challenges in college (to the extent I remember that far back!), involved finding the right balance and allocating the appropriate time between all my interests. And this was well before social media started competing for time (we had video games, though – remember Pac-man?). What does this have to do with negotiation? A lot. Great negotiators spend their time strategically planning, prioritizing, and putting their plans into practice. Developing and finetuning this skill can make or break their college experience – and yours too.
Latz’s Lesson: Negotiating with college-age students requires listening and asking, exploring interests underlying positions, helping them prioritize and balance their goals and interests, and strategic planning. Just like all negotiations!
* Marty Latz is the founder of Latz Negotiation, a national negotiation training and consulting company that helps individuals and organizations achieve better results with best practices based on the experts’ research. He can be reached at 480.951.3222 or Marty@LatzNegotiation.com.