How Dragons’ Den star Manjit Minhas negotiates with her tiny tyrants

Parenting

The Canadian entrepreneur and mom of two reveals the tactics that work equally well on CEOs and small children.

Calgary’s Manjit Minhas co-founded a distillery at age 19 and grew it into a $220-million business. She also co-owns a production company, serves on several boards and is a co-star of CBC’s Dragons’ Den. None of that happens without becoming an expert negotiator. Here’s how she handles negotiations with her toughest adversaries: her two daughters, ages nine and 12.

Are there any tried-and-true business strategies that you use when negotiating with your kids?

So many! One is the “take it or leave it” method. Sometimes my husband and I play good cop/bad cop—I’m always the bad cop. Other times I’ll offer a bogey, which is an issue you pretend is important to you, but really isn’t. Or we use a “door in the face,” where you make an unreasonable demand so a second, smaller offer is likely to be accepted.

Do your kids ever see through your tactics?

Yes, which is why you need lots of tools you can use.

Are you open to counter-offers?

A few months ago, the days were getting cold but my younger daughter wanted to still wear summer dresses. She surprised me and said, “Mom, I’ll layer.” I said, “OK, that’s a deal.” More recently, our older daughter was invited to an event at her new school that was going to go beyond her bedtime. She brought her points: It was a chance to make new friends, and leaving early would be awkward.

I got where she was coming from, so we settled on a time. Do you ever walk away from a negotiation?

When strong emotions come up—anger, tears—I often walk away. Then I do my homework and come back with a plan.

What’s the most important skill a negotiator can have?

Listening. People often just want to be heard.

How is negotiating at work different from at home?

At work I run a democracy. At home I run a dictatorship!

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