Negotiation is a familiar concept, and carries with it very easily connotations from the worlds of business and diplomacy. It is, however, something that is necessary and almost constant in intimate relationships of all kinds - but very often not explicit in its nature in this arena.
In its common, conscious form, as seen so much more clearly in the mundane daily efforts to maximize profit or national gain, negotiation is best done from a position of strength. This position is obtained not merely through bringing stronger cards to the table, but also by playing the hand close to ones chest. These two ingredients - having more power and not revealing ones true position - are the hallmarks of public negotiation and can easily serve as a model for the skills required whenever one is engaged in this activity.
In the spheres of business and diplomacy, it is a fairly safe bet to assume that the "other side" is adversarial in nature, and that the game will likely have a zero-sum outcome. In the vernacular, they are out to screw you and you them, and any gain they make is at your expense. The object is to "win." Sometimes it is true that a mutual gain through cooperation is possible, but these particular cases tend to be isolated and carefully handled. They are also the most difficult.
In interpersonal relationships this model becomes a serious impediment. Love is not a zero-sum game, it is one that depends almost entirely on cooperation to produce any benefit to either party whatsoever.
In emotionally invested situations one must, totally opposite to cruder experiences, negotiate from a position of weakness. We must lay our cards on the table, we must expose our inner selves and our fears in order to negotiate for intimacy, for someone to share part of our souls. The better we are at doing this more we "profit" from our personal relationships (while this on its own is not sufficient, it is necessary). This of course is very difficult because it requires sticking ones neck out, intentionally exposing our vulnerability - perhaps to the ones we are most vulnerable to.
While it is true that a perfect bond is never possible, we are tender and often scared deep inside, and the only way to bring some solace to this part of ourselves is to let someone else share it, even if only for a moment. To do this we risk rejection, ridicule, even revulsion. We may learn that some of our inner terror must be healed from within, we may learn that our tenderness is hungry and not giving, but we will never learn this without exposing it.
When the terrors have had their neurotic components slowly stripped away, what is left is our essential humaness, the depth of what we experience while struggling to live as animals in this world and the height of what we experience as critters capable of transcendence. When we have peeled ourselves back to this core we can give so much that no one even notices how much we are getting in return for our vulnerability (of course, some of them will start trying to suck us dry!).
Do we not all wish we could stand naked before each other...? Or is this our greatest fear... and if it is, why? That naked terror is why we do not understand each other, why we fear and hate each other and even ourselves. Overcoming this terror through effort and practise will neutralise the fear and hatred, and bring us into a greater understanding and enjoyment of our lives and the people in them.
© Huw Powell