Navigating Yuletide Diplomacy: Unwrapping the Art of Christmas Negotiation
Filled with expectations, traditions and families coming together to create a harmonious celebration. A negotiation wrapped in tinsel and as complex as my neighbours' festive lights.
The Weekly Walkaway highlights negotiation in its ‘good’, ‘bad’ and sometimes ‘downright ugly’ forms. Issue No. 57 (15th December 2023). Christmas edition.
What to expect?
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Thought of The Week - Navigating Yuletide Diplomacy: Unwrapping the Art of Christmas Negotiation
Remember: You are a negotiator!
You are always managing some form of conflict, a difference of opinion or interest.
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THOUGHT OF THE WEEK
Navigating Yuletide Diplomacy: Unwrapping the Art of Christmas Negotiation
Christmas is a festive season that unites families, friends, and communities and yes Walkawayers it can be likened to a complex negotiation.
In this elaborate negotiation, various stakeholders, each with their expectations and traditions, come together to create a harmonious and yes… sometimes not so harmonious celebration.
Christmas, the most wonderful time of the year…
A negotiation wrapped in tinsel and as complex as my neighbours' festive lights.
Families gather, lights twinkle, and the art of negotiation takes centre stage in busy houses up and down the country, and around the world, as trees, heavy under the weight of tinsel, baubles and other ornaments, are erected and kids get hyped up on sugar and pure unadulterated excitement!
Yes, the holiday season is a time of joy, merriment and unfortunately the dark underbelly of clandestine negotiations.
I’m not kidding.. It’s cut throat!
I’m not talking about negotiating the aesthetic balance between festive and tacky, which is an art form my neighbours have never mastered. Their electricity usage is off the scale and would power a small country!
Ours on the other hand is modest, while others deck the halls with enough twinkling lights to guide Santa's sleigh from space, we are still negotiating whether to have lights outside or not.
As families deck their halls with boughs of holly, beneath the surface lies a world of covert wheeling and dealing that would make even the most seasoned negotiator chuckle into their eggnogs.
So grab your cocoa and rum, settle in as we unwrap the comedy of Christmas and maybe chuck a glitter ladened hand grenade or two at you while we explode the multifaceted aspects of Christmas as a negotiation.
It’s time to shed some star light on the dynamics of balancing traditions, expectations and finding joyful compromises over this holiday season.
As my family gathers round the table, it's time to don my reindeer jumper, my black Santa hat, with Bah Humbug written along the brim, and brace myself for the jolliest round of wine fuelled geo-political discussions, whilst the only snowflakes falling outside are the not so subtle hints of passive-aggression as Grandma fusses over taking that classic Christmas photo with all the children and the teenagers Snapchat their way through it all blissfully unaware of how dismissive they are being.
But way, way, before then we have all been negotiating with each other. Just like you and every family celebrating Christmas around the world.
Where it starts
The negotiation of Christmas is like assembling a complicated piece of star wars Lego, think the Millennium Falcon, but without the manual!
The perpetual debate about where to spend the holidays is a negotiation that rivals bidding for the Olympics and World Cups all in one, as each family member pitches their home as the ultimate Christmas destination.
Personally I just want to go skiing!
Between work commitments, school nativity plays, those mandatory office parties and those annoyingly organised friends down the street, who always find a way of inviting you round for festive drinks on the only spare night you have, finding a suitable time for everyone to gather is like trying to herd cats through a room full of mice munching on the mince pies left out by your kids for Santa.
Forget about the stress-free holiday you always dream of; in reality, it's a logistical nightmare reminiscent of planning a military operation.
Negotiating time is an art, and the holiday season is the ultimate time crunch.
Just as negotiators must prioritise issues and manage deadlines, families need to navigate the delicate dance of scheduling to ensure everyone gets a slice of the festive pie.
The holiday schedule resembles a complex jigsaw puzzle. Balancing conflicting commitments while keeping everyone's holiday spirit intact. It requires the finesse of a master negotiator.
Where it goes
Christmas is a negotiation where the stakes are as high as the expectations.
A lie-in without kids waking as soon as you’ve hung the stockings;
A perfectly roasted turkey and enough booze to spark interesting conversation;
A roaring fire, The King's Speech, everyone singing in harmonious joy while you gently snore in the corner.
The perennial question of when to open presents emerges, causing a ripple of negotiations within the family.
The kids, bursting with impatience, want to rip into the gifts at the crack of dawn, while I yearn for a few more precious hours of sleep and a more civilised Christmas brunch unwrapping session.
Oh, and you cannot ignore the ever present ugly Christmas sweater conundrum! Wearing them or not?!
Should I wear one or not or should I, purely in protest, wear that garish masterpiece that puts my neighbours' lights to shame. The reindeer one with flashing lights!
Gift-giving becomes a comedic dance as family members navigate the fine line between thoughtful and "Did you really think I'd wear a tie with dancing reindeer? Seriously! C’mon!"
It is a true test of one's negotiation prowess.
From deciphering wish lists that look like algebraic equations to navigating the subtle art of re-gifting without getting caught, the holiday season turns everyone into a gift-giving negotiator extraordinaire.
It's all about the art of reciprocity and it is in full flow as we share gifts and then allow gift-giving to become the ultimate power play as we forget about the thought behind the presents and try to outdo each other with the flashiest, shiniest, most snapchat worthy gifts.
Because nothing says "Christmas spirit" like turning a holiday into a materialistic competition.
And the joy of unwrapping presents? That's just a façade to mask the disappointment when you realise that once again, Aunt Mildred has gifted you with another pair of reindeer socks to compliment last year's useless set of reindeer gloves!
Navigating eccentric Aunt Mildred's weird gifts is a negotiation in itself.
Mastering your emotions and inner control to smile joyously and ensure the kids are on plan too; smile and give appropriate thanks, as they open ceramic cats, strange garden ornaments, birdwatcher association key chains, talking rubber parrots that squawk out pirate phrases or fish that sing depressing REM songs.
The negotiation arena extends to the kitchen, where the battle between my need to feast on festive meat clashes with the annoying, poisonous elf; the sister-in-law, and her newfound love for vegan, gluten-free, nut-free, everything-free, allergic to fresh air. This need always seems to manifest itself at Christmas time.
And of course the inevitable wine fuelled clash of personalities; Uncle Ted and his politically charged tirades, Aunt Sue's insistence on discussing her cat's latest exploits and all at the same time Grandma wants that family photo with the teenagers who lost focus an hour a go while sharing pics of those snapchat worthy gifts.
Navigating the minefield of familial dynamics requires the agility of a seasoned diplomat negotiating deep conflict at The UN.
How it ends
Once the feast is devoured, the port is finished, the coffees are drunk and the chocolates have been consumed it's time to move those relatives on.
You know, to bid their awkward goodbyes.
And yes, it is awkward, like any good negotiation, having to become more comfortable being uncomfortable is key as you coerce them towards the door and finally… peace and quiet.
Let the pièce de résistance of the Christmas negotiation comedy begin as we gather for the annual game night; a game of Monopoly, the harbinger of familial strife, transforming what is left of Christmas into a battlefield of competition, dubious alliances linked to how satisfied or dissatisfied you are with your gifts and still negotiating with those teenagers to remain engaged while they dream of Fortnite.
And then the clean-up. It looms like the dark void left in a negotiation when you’re silent for more than 3 seconds. Dark and foreboding.
Who washes, who dries, and who gets stuck scrubbing the roast tray?
The clean-up is a negotiation unto itself, with everyone trying to find a reason not to do something; some snoring peacefully on the sofa, others glued to their phones snapchatting or finally playing Fortnite and the chef, yes me, sat watching Die Hard on TV with a belly full of festive meat, good wine and a sense of a job well done.
Time to take this bloody hat off I think!
Happy Christmas everyone.
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