Thriving despite conflicts: 9 Rules of Negotiating with Your Au Pair

by cv harquail on January 29, 2012

One of the crazy benefits of being an au pair mom or dad is that host parenting gives us many chances to practice skills that make us better everywhere in our lives.

Chief among the skills we get to practice is how to negotiate. By using conflicts with our au pairs (or even simple disagreements and misunderstandings) as chances for trying different advice to improve our negotiating, we can learn how to get what we need so that we and our families and our au pairs thrive.

When it comes to offering real tips on negotiation, though, I like to defer to experts.

My favorite three experts are Lisa, Vicky and Chrysula, who also happen to be friends of mine. They are life coaches, mediators, and small business owners who run workshops for women on how to negotiate effectively. After a few years of coasting on whatever wisdom of theirs I could glean as a friend, or by reading their blogs on negotiation and work-life balance, I finally decided to sign up for one of their courses myself.

(Just as an aside, it’s kindof weird to take a “class” from a friend, but at some point you just have to give in and treat your pals like the experts they are.)

However, when I went to their SheNegotiates website to sign up for a negotiation class (aka “fulfill a New Year’s resolution”), it turned out they had something new to offer– a chance to join an ongoing learning community designed to help women learn how to negotiate not just conflicts or better deals or higher salaries, but also how to negotiate some of the deeper issues in life.

Because I believe in these women and what they do, and because I have signed up myself, I’m doing something on AuPairMom for the First. Time. Ever. I am recommending that you think about spending some money and time on yourself and your personal learning. Go to www.thedailythrive.org and consider signing up yourselves.

I’m not suggesting this because The Daily Thrive is paying me an affiliate fee, giving me free membership in their community, or even taking me out to lunch. They aren’t. I’m recommending that you check them out because I hear from you, over and over, how life as an au pair parent is challenging. For most of us this challenge centers on balancing getting what we need while giving au pairs what they need. Too often, we err on the side of being overly-generous, or denying how much we’re giving up, or wondering why we aren’t appreciated. Learning how to negotiate more effective should help with this.

— cvh

 

></a></div><p><br/>I'm not suggesting this because The Daily Thrive is paying me an affiliate fee, giving me free membership in their community, or even taking me out to lunch. They aren't. I'm recommending that you check them out because I hear from you, over and over, how life as an au pair parent is challenging. For most of us this challenges center on balancing getting what we need while giving au pairs what they need. Too often, we err on the side of being overly-generous, or denying how much we're giving up, or wondering why we aren't appreciated. Learning how to negotiate more effective should help with this.</p><p>Here's a taste of their approach on TheDailyThrive, written by Chrysula (working mom of four):</p><p>YOU ARE NEGOTIATING YOUR LIFE: THE NINE RULES OF NEGOTIATING WITH A FRIEND OF THE FAMILY</p><p>Negotiation. What do you see? An image of smoky back rooms and boys in suits?</p>We have lots of baggage around the word
Here’s a taste of their approach to things, a guest post by Chrysula Winegar

YOU ARE NEGOTIATING YOUR LIFE: THE NINE RULES OF NEGOTIATING WITH A FRIEND OF THE FAMILY

Negotiation. What do you see? An image of smoky back rooms and boys in suits?

We have lots of baggage around the “negotiation” word. However, when we realize that we are actually negotiating every element of our life every day, a huge light bulb goes on. Uh-huh. We are negotiating everything. Relationships with our spouse, our children, our boss, our au pair, our neighbors, our friends, our extended family, anyone we buy something from, anyone we deliver a product or service to, everything and everyone. Every day. Isn’t it time you got really good at it?

Pretty much all of the conversations we have here at Au Pair Mom get to the negotiation word pretty quickly. Whether it’s car access, boyfriend visitation rights, extra days off or borrowing clothes, the entire relationship of your au pair with your family is a negotiation. So where to begin?

Here are those nine rules we promised. They are the same nine rules as for any negotiation. But with your au pair, who in many ways has become part of your family and even your friend, it can feel much trickier.

Most Negotiation 101 instructions tell you not to negotiate with your friends. If we women didn’t negotiate with those close to us, we would have very few people with whom to negotiate! This might very well account for a portion of the wage and income gap – the reluctance to benefit ourselves in any transaction is particularly acute with those in our immediate circle.

So what are we to do? Should we just give up and learn to live within our diminished means? Or should we add the power of interest-based negotiation to our other assets to play a larger role in the world? At home, with your au pair, who is part of the system that makes your life possible, is a great place to start practicing.

1. Establish connection and set the tone.
2. Raise the subject of negotiation.
3. Put all items to be discussed on the table.
4. Make sure all stakeholders are present.
5. Make an opening offer that provides a benefit to your partner.
6. Tell your partner what you will do and how it will benefit them.
7. Meet flat refusal with brainstorming and problem solving (more diagnostic questions).
8. Log Roll: exchange things of value. (Something of low value/cost to you may be of high value to your partner.)
9. Close the conversation (take a break or seal the deal).

Negotiating the details of your life is the real key to work life balance, greater productivity, handling your money, making technology work for you and caring for your body and mind.

All of us at The Daily Thrive, a new online learning community for women launching January 30th from the folks who brought you She Negotiates, are a bit obsessed with holistic living. Finding a fit for your life that is not only doable, but sustainable is their mission. It’s a community of learners focused on all of who you are. Six experts, six life-changing topics. One year. One life. Yours. Go and have a look here: www.thedailythrive.org.

I hope to see some of you over at The Daily Thrive, and back here at AuPairMom putting your new skills into action.- cvh

See also:Craving Balance by Chrysula Winegar

{ 10 comments }

Taking a Computer Lunch January 29, 2012 at 9:16 pm

I’d like to add a 10th for negotiating with an AP, because even if her English is amazing, chances are that she reads far better than she listens or speaks (not true in all cases – there are some true aural/oral learners): follow-up the conversation, especially if it is particularly tough, with an email summarizing the points on which you and the AP agreed. When things are not going well, then copy the LCC on that email. Write that email and then edit it severely, to take out any “tone” that might have snuck in. When I send these email, my intention is not to have another opportunity to express frustration, but to offer a professional summation, and encouragement that the goals on which the AP and I have agreed can be met.

Lisa Gates January 29, 2012 at 9:58 pm

CV! This is so incredibly generous … and yes, indeed, I’ll take you to lunch anyway! Even if we have to simultaneously (on separate coasts) go to dominoes and order take out at the same time :)

Wow. Negotiation is everywhere when you get conscious about it, isn’t it? And this is an especially important domain. Probably THE most important. Our families and children.

My 2 cents on the previous poster…it is so wise to edit for any “tone that’s snuck in.” Email is certainly efficient, but only good ol’ conversation will keep the temperature low and the mutual benefit high. Using curiosity and open-ended questions to get at what might not be clear, and find out if there are any rocks to overturn goes far to empower.

Many thank yous!

eM. January 30, 2012 at 8:40 pm

Hi!

I’ve been reading this website for a looooooot of time and I find it really useful.

I used to be an aupair in the UK months ago but I went out of the house because I was being really mistreated. At first I had loads of hope and I was amazed by the idea of living with a nice family in the UK, kinda support myself in this country and achieve my prof test once and forever so I could go to college at the fall.

All of that hopes were broken when I ended up being the maid of a wealthy english family living in London and working more than thirteen hours a day six days a week.

(…) well, let’s go straight to the point because I could spend ages talking about my aupair experience (I still live in the UK but I found a job and I’m renting my out flat and doing my own stuff… And YES, I’m attending college at the fall if everything works out ¬°Yay!) ..

I’ve specially like this post because I think that negotiation is everything in the relationship both the aupair and the family have. You are flexible and they are flexible and thats how it works… But… How do the aupairs should negotiate things with you? How do you like to discuss things without feeling bad or weird about it?

Thanks for the blog… Its nice to read even being the other part.

JJ Host Mom January 31, 2012 at 12:51 am

“How do the aupairs should negotiate things with you? How do you like to discuss things without feeling bad or weird about it?”

I think the key is entering into a discussion with an open mind and goodwill. Viewing the discussion as a way to get you working together on the same team, rather than a fight that puts you at odds with one another.

So, for example, saying “can we talk to figure out a solution for X together” vs. “you are being awful to me because you do X”

eM. January 30, 2012 at 8:43 pm

Btw, Taking a computer lunch, I LOVE your post, you seem really sensible and nice!

JJ Host Mom January 31, 2012 at 12:48 am

I took a negotiating class by Stuart Diamond, and my favorite point was basically this: instead of fighting over who gets what part of the pie, talk together to see if it’s possible to make the pie bigger. This goes back to CV’s point 8 above. For example, au pair might want Saturday night off to go out with her friends, but might be willing to work both Wednesday night and Thursday night to make up for it. Or alternately host parent might want the au pair to make dinner, but doesn’t care whether the au pair spends 8 hours cooking or heats up a frozen meal. So, talk to each other enough to figure out what each other wants, and why. Once you understand the “why” you may be able to find alternate ways to make everyone happy.

HRHM January 31, 2012 at 4:38 pm

I think HPs and APs really need to realistically consider their starting position as well. If the AP is wonderful and really making the HPs life better, then she has a stronger position to negotiate from than the AP who is getting by doing the absolute minimum required. You will repeatedly see the comments here from HMs who would manage a situation one way for a stellar AP and a different, less generous way for a marginal one. Same goes for the HPs – if you need to change the psychological contract (alter the situation from what you advertised it as when you and AP agreed for her to come to your family) but you are not pleasant, don’t make your AP feel valued, are hyper-critical and micromanaging when you don’t need to be, don’t be surprised if she isn’t interested in being super-flexible.
Also, there are some negotiations that aren’t negotiations! :) For instance, if the HPs work schedule gets changes, they aren’t really asking your permission to change your APing schedule! Either the AP accepts the changes, or she leaves. I was utterly amazed by me AP who was ANGRY at me for getting deployed – trust me sweety, I didn’t ask to be shipped to the middle east for 6 months! LOL Sorry it screwed up your planned trips to the beach every weekend…

Taking a Computer Lunch January 31, 2012 at 8:55 pm

While I haven’t been deployed, I have split living in a hospital with DH for 4-5 weeks at a time, caring for my special needs child, lovingly called The Camel, when she crashes and burns after major surgery. After major surgery #1 (as opposed to major hospitalization #1), I learned my lesson: Sit down when the kids are in bed and have a chat. “This can’t be helped, I don’t know how it will go, but I am counting on you to rise to the occasion.” The Camel had major surgery #3 while AP #6 was living with us. 6 weeks out I had the chat, and it made a huge difference (because she had jumped to the conclusion that she wouldn’t be needed since caring for The Camel had made 80% of her work).

While I truly believe in the follow-up email (especially when things are not going well and you want your LCC to be aware that you are having problems), I absolutely believe in the quiet chat first. I have learned from experience that enlisting support before the change happens (in our case we knew that The Camel would have major surgery 5 months out and past experience had indicated that it would mean several days on life support – we were going into it with our feet wet). This is why I have the “your summer schedule is not like your school-year schedule” in April. Forewarned is forearmed.

I really like steps #1-9 above. They are very hard, which is why I do my best to bite my tongue in the moment, and only dress the AP down in front of the kids when they are in absolute danger. Otherwise, I take a deep breath, and say, “Are you available for a chat after the kids go to bed?” and do my best yogic breathing exercises. After all, she is a not just an employee and not just a family member. She doesn’t need to feel the full force of my in-the-moment wrath and I need to calm down. (I want to say, for the record, that with the exception of one AP, we’re talking about minutes in the AP year in my house and not even a monthly occurrence.)

AFHostMom February 1, 2012 at 11:40 pm

I confess that I am TIRED TO DEATH of negotiation.
I do it every day, all day, at work. I am a litigator for the Air Force, and I feel like I brush up against so many people on a daily basis that the last thing I want to do at home is go for more. But I know that’s unfair to my family (including the AP). For someone who negotiates professionally (because we take a LOT of cases to alternate resolution, and I’m punchy because I have several spinning up right now…), I feel like I’m shockingly bad at it in my personal life.
With current AP, we can’t even get there yet. Her English is so weak that negotiation is nigh on impossible. We’re working on it, and we like her and I believe she likes us. This is just foreign territory for me since AP1 was w-r-o-n-g from the get-go, and AP2 fit right in seamlessly. I’m learning how to build a relationship that I actually want to keep, but have to put effort into! It’s a new experience, at least in my host mom role….I’ve been married long enough to have experienced it elsewhere!

SAHHM February 23, 2012 at 2:02 am

Hi CV,

Thanks for sharing this. I am having trouble with the link. I have to thank you I have been reading your site for the past few months in preparation for my one year as a hm and have found everything extremely helpful.

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