Bargaining: The Sorta Winning, Sorta Losing Dragon


Confession: Bargaining is something that I do regularly.

I am in a class this fall called “Managing Conflict in Ministry.” I am studying to enter ministry, and can you believe it, there is conflict in the church! Sarcasm aside, this class has been helpful in the profiles and inventories we have been doing. One such profile talked about the different styles of conflict management: persuade, compel, avoid, collaborate, negotiate, and support. On a possible score of 0 to 15 (higher the number, more likely you use that style, lower the number the more likely you are to avoid that style) I scored a 13 on the Negotiate/Bargain style, and only a 2 on Collaborate. Let me expand a little on what they meant. Negotiate/Bargain (the author, Speed B. Leas, primarily used the word “bargaining”) means that you enter into a conflict and think you will not get exactly what you want, but you can at least get something and the other person/people can get something he/she/they want. Collaborate is a style where all parties involved share all knowledge and work towards a mutually agreed upon goal, so that there are not real losers, but everyone wins. This profile was done keeping a particular context in mind – I act differently with my fiance (WHOM I MARRY IN 3 MONTHS) than I do with my co-workers. So I did this inventory/assessment in the context of working in retail.

This whole thing made me think about bargaining and the idea of “win some, lose some” and how much that really does identify the way I view things. I think about sports: if I can lose a game but learn from losing in a way that helps me win future games, then the loss is not so bad. But if I lose a game and I learned nothing, I get vexed pretty easily. As a general principle, I actually am quite content being a win some/lose some sort of guy. My overall philosophy has always been that it’s ok to lose a battle if you win the war. This is probably tied to my optimism, thinking I can always get back up when I have been knocked down.

One thing to keep in mind in all of this is that Bargaining only works when the solution/prize can be divided. On issues where you take absolute stances (i.e. God is to be worshiped only, I will love my wife more than any other person, etc.) bargaining no longer works. You cannot say, “I will love my wife most on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and on Wednesday’s I will love my son the most and on Friday I will love myself the most.” That sort of bargaining is not going to bring about anything positive. The word bargaining implies “trade” whether that be time, resources, etc.

As I read books with dragons, and as I think about what dragons did before they became less prominent (I know they are hiding somewhere, just gotta go find them!), I imagine a dogfight where each dragon scores some points: claw scratch here, bite mark there, tail whip over here, etc. And I think in some battles both parties lose some, and both win some. In our day to day interactions, it is ok to win some and it is ok to lose some. You have a lot of “battles” in your life. You face conflicts frequently, and to win some is great, and to lose some is totally understandable and expected. Understanding that you will lose some battles in life is going to make those losses much easier to bear.

I guess I write this to say “Be willing to sacrifice sometimes for the greater good.” That thought runs so much deeper than, “I will give in now so that XYZ will give in later.” Be willing to miss a movie to spend time with your spouse. Be willing to lose three hours sleep to help your child with their homework. Be willing to work that extra shift so that your co-worker will have the day to spend with their family. Be willing to eat that last piece of pizza so that someone else does not face that temptation (ok, that may be not as impactful as the previous ones). Hopefully you get my point. Bargaining and negotiating is so much more than sacrifice solely for future personal gains. Bargaining is done for the greater good, and sometimes it means some temporary unpleasantness.


I pray your bargaining will be successful this week, and that you do will in your encounters with your weekly dragons. May your life be filled with glorious encounters, and may the evil dragons be on the losing end this week.


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