People like me who teach negotiation like to tell our audiences that everything is negotiable. But I suspect that most of us still understand negotiation as an activity conducted at workplaces, in board rooms, in law offices, in union halls. We imagine negotiations over salary, over working conditions and benefits, over contracts, over stock options, over cash.
In doing so, we overlook the daily transactions that quietly make up life’s most important negotiations. And there’s one kind of negotiation in particular that holds serious consequences for those who lack the skill to succeed in it.
It takes place in private. It proceeds behind closed doors, when the shades are drawn, in halting steps or in haste.
It’s a kind of negotiation that demands self-agency, the ability to advocate zealously for oneself and also to walk away if you can’t get to yes:
These are negotiation skills every sexual active teenager and adult should possess: the ability to negotiate safe sexual practices with a partner. The web, that confidential, sometimes dependable refuge for the embarrassed or the self-conscious, offers advice and links to resources. These include:
- Condom Use Negotiating Tips for counselors working with patients (in PDF)
- From the Cambridge University Students’ Union, ideas for how to respond to different scenarios that might arise in negotiating condom use
- “Negotiating Condom Use” by the American Social Health Association
- A quiz from Yale Medical School on “Harm Reduction Negotiation Skills” (PDF), together with role play scenarios for “latex negotiation”
These are negotiation skills on which life and death can depend. It’s time at last to throw open the shades, let in the light, and talk about them openly.