August 2020


Oh. My. God. Will you stop leaving your dirty dishes in the sink when the dishwasher is right there? Or if the dishwasher is clean, how about unloading it?

Sound familiar?

I feel like I’m negotiating more than ever before. Living in shared households and confined spaces creates real stress on all of us. 

According to our recent Parlay House speaker, Wharton Professor Mori Taheripour, successful negotiations can be maximized when we shift from an aggression mindset to conversations that include empathy, curiosity and human connection. When we see each other as allies and venture to understand each other’s needs, it often results in win-win outcomes.

She asked each of us to consider our own personal non-negotiables and to understand what our partner/business associate/kids’ non-negotiables might be as well. It’s likely that when we understand what will make each of us the happiest, we’ll realize that we aren’t really fighting over the same piece at all… and we all can get more of what we want. 

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What do dirty dishes really mean?

For me, the compromises are easiest when I have clarity about my emotions. With blood running hot these days, I might react to something small because I haven’t acknowledged that underlying my reaction is something that has deeper meaning to me. 

In my exclamations above, I’m not really upset about coffee cups, bar-ware or the salad bowl. I’m actually reacting to a life-long feeling that my needs, my time and my privacy often feel secondary to those I love. 

I understand that many of my feelings are part of a self-fulfilling prophecy triggered by me: I tend to show love through acts of service to others. Through nurturing. I like loving and giving and doing, so a lot of my choices put others first. Then, when I’m not thought of, I feel resentful and hurt.

When I react about the dishes, I’m really asking whether the dishes in the sink means you are not thinking about me. 

Dishes mean dishes, not love.

For my dish-leavers, I know there is no offense intended! Their heads are probably in a different place or their eyes don’t hone in on dishes in the sink like they have some deep meaning. 

But I’ll bet that when I tell them dishes are a sign I’m not being thought of, the people in my life are likely to make that sink shine. They want to make me feel loved in the same way I show my love to them, and they’ll see what dishes mean to me. 

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The onus is on me to make sense of my big reaction to a small thing.

I’m also hoping that opening up about my feelings and needs will open space for them to tell me what THEY need too. Because they are probably wrestling with things that seem small but feel big in the same way I am.

The more I know about their “big small things,” the more I can shape my behavior to make them feel seen as well as loved. We’ll need to negotiate less and can move forward with real needs being met for us both.

Small changes that begin from within (self-awareness) and are then expressed in loving ways that are about needs rather than criticism will increase the likelihood of win-win outcomes for us all. 

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How will you Parlay personal needs into mutual wins?

Share it Small: Take your time with this one. Unless your reaction to my insights is, “OMG, yes, it’s not about the dishes!” think about the things that are really bugging you and what that might really be about. If it’s really about the dishes, tell your peeps that doing a few dishes is a small thing for them but a big thing for you. If the underlying stimulus for the dish drama is about something bigger (as mine was), get clarity about that for yourself and then find gentle ways to let others into those feelings. Chances are, when they know about you, they’ll feel more connected and find ways to support you.

Share it Big: As I finished the first draft of this a couple of days ago, my good friend Carla Vernon happened to post something about her own frustrations with her dish-filled sink on social media. It was not a glamour post — it was a tongue-in-cheek expression of how, in the days of SIP, the little things are getting to her. Her post made me feel less alone (and it made me smile about our shared experience).

What can you share with others that sounds “small” but feels big? Chances are, by talking about your imperfections, frustrations and challenges, you’ll make people in your world feel a little less alone. And that will go a long way into reducing negotiations and increasing understanding for all.

Share it with Me: We all learn from each other. If you have had a revelation, a break-through, an insight, or a triumph, we can learn from you so please tell me about it here! I’m collecting stories of these cascades of good for ongoing community building and to trackThe Parlay Effect in action. I would love nothing better than to hear how you lifted, were lifted, or observed something in others that made you feel good and recognize your own power.