You know the situation: there’s a person. A NEW person. And they’re cute in all the right ways. Maybe you stalk their FetLife profile and find out they’re into many of the same things you are and you figure out a way to strike up a conversation somehow. Maybe you see them at a speed dating event and go, “ohh…yes…them.” Or perhaps it’s a munch or a party or a gathering among friends or a skills practice. However you find The New Interesting, the next logical step, once you’ve established common interests is to…you know….ummmmmm…..negotiate…. a scene?
But you, like me, are shy, or introverted, or (dis)abled, or socially anxious, or any number of other things that might make negotiating hard. You have trouble staying your course, naming your desires or limits, and figuring out the path of a scene. You stutter or turn bright red or maybe even tear up even though your’re not upset. Your mind runs in loops of “oh god, oh no, but what if, I can’t, I shouldn’t….”
Take a breath.
Let’s figure this out together.
What can you do to make the incredibly necessary process of negotiating a scene easier?
1- Name your Fear
This is the totally terrifying part, but if you can articulate to the other person(s) in the negotiation what’s going on, they’re a lot more likely to understand, accommodate, and know what they’re getting into. Your naming can vary based on what’s bothering you. If you’re scheduling a negotiation ahead of time, you might consider a text-based communication (an email, message, etc) that explains some of the fears you have or limitations and what they mean. If you’re plunging into this head-first on the spot, that obviously isn’t possible, but try to take a second to review with everyone what’s going on for you. It can be as simple as, “I’m feeling really nervous about this. I have some social anxiety issues/am shy/have trouble reading other people/etc and I want you to know that before we start.
2- Make the Situation Work for You
Do you need some water? A fidget? Do you need to sit down or would walking actually help distract you? Do you want the distraction of food or other people or do you want to be alone in a quiet place? Do you need any props just in case like a notebook or a pen? What would help YOU have the most successful conversation? Decide what that is, even if it sounds silly, and firmly insist on it. Set up your environment in a way that works best for you and your mentality at the moment. It will go a long way to making you feel more secure and will allow for the fewest interruptions.
3- Establish What you Need to Cover
We often don’t think about exactly what needs to get covered in a negotiation or we know somethings but not others. Take a few minutes to think over what you need to cover and take notes if that helps. Establish your basics – who is in the scene, what’s going on, where is it, when is it, why are all parties participating, and how will it progress or work? Be sure to include safe-signals or safe-words, limits and boundaries, health considerations, and discussions of histories of trauma, skill of all members involved, and other risk-aware considerations. But also, don’t forget to talk about the fun stuff. WHY are you doing this? WHAT do you DESIRE? Why is this exciting? Break the ice by starting with the easy stuff first. For example, for many people the who, where, and when aspects are usually informally decided before the true negotiation begins. Maybe start by reiterating those things to get you in the swing.
4- Think Alternatively
If (okay, maybe, WHEN) you get stuck, take a breath, slow down, and consider what could help that you haven’t tried. Myself, I have a lot of trouble assuming people will judge or laugh at me for some of my desires. I’ve often wished I could just curl up in a ball, run and hide, or at the very least have the people who I’m talking to not look at me or me not at them. I always assumed that these were instincts that were counter-productive to the mission of negotiating and that I should find a way to overcome them. But one day I was discussing a really difficult thing with trusted partner and I joked, “I just want to run and hide so you’ll stop looking at me!” My partner, instead of laughing, turned around and faced away from me and asked, “is this better?” It was. It was SO much better. I don’t do all my negotiations that way, but sometimes when I am having a difficult time, I ask people to do that. Or I go in another room and talk through a door. I had always assumed that wasn’t possible until I tried thinking alternatively. If you’re having a really hard time with something, consider just trying it the way your body/mind are craving and see what happens!
5- Have Aftercare
Have aftercare for your negotiation. I know, it seems totally silly, but you just did a thing that was really hard for you emotionally or physically (just like a scene) and a hug, someone telling you “good job,” or a cookie can go a long way to making the experience positive. It also acts as a reward system so that during the negotiation or at the next one you can remember that “at the end of this I get a candy bar.” Don’t underestimate the power of kindness to yourself after something difficult.
What do you struggle with in negotiations, readers? What have you done to help? If you’re the extroverted/non-shy/non-anxious partner how do you support someone else going through this? Comment and let me know!