Negotiation is a super important skill
Jul 28, 2020
Season 1 | Episode 2

Negotiation is a super important skill

Ruby wants a new phone, but her parents aren’t so sure. So we’re going to help her negotiate to get what she wants — through the power of compromise.

This week, we’re learning how to get what we want through negotiation. It’s about empowering kids — and hopefully avoiding big, nasty arguments — by employing new skills like active listening and compromise. Once you’ve become a negotiation expert, it can help with all kinds of things like buying a car or accepting a job offer. But it’s also really useful right now! We’ll put our new skills to the test and help our friend Ruby, who wants to ask her parents for a new smartphone. Plus, we’ve got some great knock-knock jokes, and LeVar Burton tells us who he wants to see on U.S. currency.

Money Talks

Take a minute to recap the episode and review the key points. Here are some questions to get the kids going:

  1. What are some bad techniques for negotiating? What shouldn’t you do?
  2. Why are these bad strategies?
  3. What did Ruby want from her parents? And why did she want it?
  4. Why didn’t Ruby’s parents want her to have a new phone?
  5. How did she negotiate with her parents to get the phone? What did she bring to the table?
  6. Can you think of something you had to negotiate for? How did it go?

(Click here for the answers.)

Tip jar

The first panel shows a girl doing research, reading "to negotiate well, you need to gather intel about what's important to each person." The Second shows the same girl recruiting her an older boy, reading "Next, find a sidekick who can be a go-between for you and the other party." Third shows the girl pacing and ranting to the bored older boy. It says: "Then, create a plan to make the ask, be sure to think through all the possible scenarios." Finally, the fourth panel shows the girl in cool spy shades. It concludes: "And don't forget to keep a cool head! Remember: It's not an argument, it's a discussion."

Here are some more tips for grown-ups:

This article in The Atlantic offers some advice from a variety of mediation and negotiation experts on how to negotiate with kids. 

Our guest, Carrie Menkel-Meadow, mediation expert and law professor at the University of California, Irvine, offered some additional thoughts for parents. 

“It’s so important to realize that you are in a lifelong negotiation with your child,” she told senior producer Bridget Bodnar. “We should treat each negotiation both as its own thing, but also realize we’re creating a long-term relationship with each other.”

Parents may have to say no, but it’s important for children to know those decisions are made out of love, Menkel-Meadow added. “When we’re talking like this with each other, we’re learning how to solve problems together.”

Bodnar also asked Menkel-Meadow: Who’s your favorite negotiator in history? Her answer: management guru Mary Parker Follett. Here’s more on Parker Follett’s often-cited work.

Finally, Menkel-Meadow has even more tips for grown-ups: she talked with our podcast “This Is Uncomfortable” last year about negotiating a salary.

Gimmie Five

Hey, don’t forget! If you want to nominate yourself or someone you know as a Dollar Scholar, let us know here. (Oh, and if you’ve got any good knock-knock jokes, Jed Kim’s always on the hunt!)

Chances are you or your kids still have more questions. That’s great! We’re always looking for ideas to explore, so we’d love to hear from you. Click here to send us your question.

Money Talks answers

  1. Annoying repetition, throwing temper tantrums, making threats.
  2. They’ll probably just make the other person frustrated and angry. Or you might get in trouble.
  3. A new phone to stay in touch with her friends.
  4. It cost too much, and they were worried about her spending too much time on screens.
  5. She offered to help cover the cost, and she offered to limit her screen time.
  6. Answers will vary

(Click here to go back to the top.)

One more thing: parents might remember the 1999 Disney Channel movie “Smart House.” LeVar Burton directed it, and he talked with Marketplace about smart home technology a couple years ago.

Million Bazillion episode 2, season 1, “Negotiation is a super important skill” transcript

Note: Marketplace podcasts are meant to be heard, with emphasis, tone and audio elements a transcript can’t capture. Transcripts are generated using a combination of automated software and human transcribers, and may contain errors. Please check the corresponding audio before quoting it.

Jed: Hey Bridget — you got anymore of those knock, knock jokes?

Bridget: <thinking> Umm – yeah. Here’s one.

Jed: Yesss!

Bridget: Knock knock Jed.

Jed: Who’s there?

Bridget: Ice Cream Soda

Jed: Ice Cream Soda who?

Bridget: I scream soda people can hear me!

Jed: <Laughing> Bwhaha! That’s so good! One more?

Bridget: We gotta start the show.

Jed: Please? They’re so short and you’re so good at them!

Bridget: Okay. Last one. Knock, knock.

Jed: Who’s there?

Bridget: I’ll never know.

Jed: I’ll never know who?

Bridget: <interrupting> Okay time for the show. Bye! <door close>

Jed: Bridget! I’ll never know who! Bridget?! She didn’t finish. Now I’ll never know who– ohh, that’s good.

Jed: Hey everyone, welcome back to Million Bazillion, the show that helps dollars make more sense! I’m Jed.

Bridget: And I’m Bridget. Talking about money isn’t always easy, and that’s OK! We’re here to help!

Jed: Today, we’re teaching you something that’s going to make your parents really nervous. MUAH HA HA HA!!! Oh, they’re so worried! Come on, guys, join me in scaring your parents. MUAAAHH HAAAA HAAAA!!!

Bridget: All right, Thanos, take it down a notch. It’s not about scaring parents; it’s about empowering kids – and hopefully avoiding big, nasty arguments. You know how it can be really hard sometimes to convince your parents to let you do something or get something that you really want? We’re going to help you learn a technique that’ll make the whole process go much easier.

Jed: That’s right. It’s called negotiation. That’s when two sides try to come to an agreement on something by talking it out.

Bridget: This is a super important skill. One day you’ll need to negotiate to get a good deal on a car…or when you accept a job to make sure you’re getting paid what you’re worth.

Jed: But it’s also super useful in your life right now! You probably negotiate every day without even realizing it — over things like your bedtime, what game to play with friends, or what toppings to get on a pizza.

Bridget: Or when you negotiate with your cat, Mr. Tugglerumps about what an appropriate hour for using the scratch post is. I’ve never won.

Jed: Anyway, if you’re already negotiating — why not be smart about it? Because there are different ways to negotiate, and not all of them are great. I mean… check out this old instructional film I found the other day.

Narrator: Episode four: how to negotiate using three simple techniques: annoying repetition, <bing> temper tantrums <bing> and threats <bing>.

In this situation, homeroom teacher Mr. Stuart wants his students to start bringing him snacks everyday. First, he’ll try to get his way using repetition.

Mr. Stuart: Attention class, I want a snack.

Kid 1: Um, don’t you have any of your own?

Mr. Stuart: I want a snack.

Mr. Stuart: Snack! I want a snack! Snack time! For my tummy!

Narrator: Excellent. Another terrible technique is the temper tantrum.

Mr. Stuart: No! I’m not getting up until I get a SNAAAAACK!!!

Kid 2: Mr. Stuart, what if you write a note reminding yourself to bring snacks tomorr-


Kid 1: (sigh) I want to change schools.

Kid 2: This is so weird.

Narrator: Outstanding. Finally, let’s see how threats work.

Mr. Stuart: Listen up, if you don’t bring me snacks — I’m gonna assign so much homework.

Jed: So yeah, don’t do any of that. Bridget, go ahead and throw that away. No one ever needs to see that again. Anyway, the point is yelling and freaking out is not a good strategy.

Bridget: Yeah – it’ll probably just make whoever you are negotiating with frustrated and angry.

Jed: And you might even get in trouble.

Bridget: There’s a much smarter, more effective way to try getting what you want. It involves active listening and compromise. That’s when both sides give up something, so that both sides can be happy.

Jed: To help us see it in action, we’ve brought in a very special guest. Let me introduce you to Ruby. She’s 12. Ruby, how do you feel about being here?

Ruby: Awesome.

Jed: We’re talking to Ruby today, because she wants something, but her parents aren’t on board. Ruby, what is that you want?

Ruby: A new phone.

Jed: Why do you need a new phone?

Ruby: Um, so, Right now, I have a super old phone, so I can only email people and use the Google Hangouts app. So, other than that, I can, like, play games, listen to music, that kind of thing…

Jed: But you can’t call anyone or text from it. And that’s a bummer, because…

Ruby: I’m going to a different school next year, and I have no way to communicate with people that I met last year, so I don’t, I can’t…really do anything else.

Jed: So you might run the risk of losing touch with your friends.

Ruby: Yeah.

Bridget: Man, that’s rough.

Jed: Yeah, friends are the people who know the real you, and it’s terrible to lose touch! But here’s some good news. We’re going to help Ruby out. No, we’re not going to buy her a phone. We’re going to help her learn to negotiate for one. And we’re gonna teach you listeners how to do it too.

Bridget: That’s coming up. And if you’ve got a money question or a money problem you want answered…send it to us at our website! It’s Marketplace dot org slash million.

Dramatic voice: And now it’s time for ASKING RANDOM KIDS NOT-SO-RANDOM QUESTIONS!

Put yourself in your parents shoes for this question…assume they have a good reason for this, like the very best one…why do your parents tell you no about stuff?


Dramatic voice: That was…Esra, Sevian, Sophia, Olivia, Augustine and Aidan. THIS HAS BEEN ASKING RANDOM KIDS NOT-SO-RANDOM QUESTIONS!

Jed: Okay so Bridget and I were talking about the best way to help solve Ruby’s problem…

Bridget: And we decided to call in an expert. Someone who really knows their stuff when it comes to helping people get what they want. She actually teaches future LAWYERS about negotiation.

Jed: And she has a proven track record in helping kids successfully negotiate with their parents…including in one case, where the kids convinced their parents to get a TV. I mean, this is great stuff! Ruby, meet Carrie Menkel-Meadow and Carrie, meet Ruby.

Carrie: Hi Ruby, nice to meet you.

Ruby: Nice to meet you.

Jed: Ruby, we’ve filled Carrie in about your situation…like how you’d lose touch with all your friends when you change schools if you didn’t get that cell phone…and how your parents keep saying no… So, Carrie, what should Ruby, budding master negotiator, do next?

Carrie: Next thing you want to do is to ask them why you can’t have a phone…and they’ve said too expensive and, not old enough yet, right?

Ruby: Yeah, mostly too expensive.

Carrie: So when you get an answer from someone saying no, one thing I tell people is to step away and think about it. Can you respond and think of some solutions about what might make it less expensive for them.

Ruby: Okay.

Carrie: Any ideas?

Ruby: Well maybe they could pay half the cost, I could pay half the cost?

Carrie: That’s what we call problem solving negotiation. So there’s something you want but in order to get something from someone else, you have to help them get there. We call that getting to yes. Giving them something so they can meet you, either half way, or come along and help you get what you want. So offering, and that’s what you’re doing, offering to pay some of it for yourself is meeting their argument about why we might not do it because it’s too expensive. So I think it’s pretty terrific.

Jed: Can I jump in? I talked to your mom and she said there are actually bigger reasons than money for not wanting Ruby to get a phone. Ruby, your parents are really worried about you spending too much time looking at screens.

Ruby: Hmm.

Carrie: So there’s another lesson in there. When you want something, ask someone all their concerns and needs and issues and their arguments are all at once because it’s useful to know everything that they want from the situation right away. So, think about it…anything you’d say to meet that concern?

Ruby: Well a lot of my friends who do have phones, they have this app thing that the phone closes if you use it too much.

Carrie: That’s great. Did you tell your mom that?

Ruby: I didn’t because I forgot. So it’s like wait, we can totally use this!

Carrie: Almost no negotiation has to be just one session of talking. So sometimes you might, and your mom too, might need to take some time away to stop and think and talk away, after you’ve done some research and talked to other people. It’s really important to keep communicating, keep it going — is there any other reason you’re saying no? So you can take some time out and think about how you can respond to those.

Jed: Oh man, that’s good advice. I always just give up when I hear no. Because I figure that’s it!

Carrie: So if you want to get to yes, sometimes you have to go with a maybe for a little while and then you can take some time out and think about how you convert that maybe

Ruby: Into a yes.

Carrie: Perfect.

Jed: Carrie, all of this is fantastic…Ruby, I think you’ve got what it takes to really WIN this argument –ah, I said argument. Is it an argument?

Carrie: No, now a lesson for Jed here. Don’t turn the other person into the enemy. You want to get them to sit on the same side as you. So I tell people, we’re not having an argument, we’re having a discussion.

Jed: Ooh, that’s a good and important point, Carrie. Let’s take a break, think about what we’ve learned…and when we come back, we’re going to have more tips and tricks on how to get what you want…the right way! — And also, maybe a few more knock knock jokes? What do you say Bridget?

Bridget: Maybe… but, you know, it’s a lot of work to find them. Maybe you could…look some up yourself? Anyway, stick around.

Dramatic voice: Today’s question — Would you rather… always win your negotiations…

Over what to EAT?

Or what to WATCH?

Take some time to think about it…during the break.

Jed: Ok, Bridget! Knock knock!

Bridget: Who’s there?

Jed: What are you, an owl?!

Bridget: What? I don’t…get it?

Jed: Ah nuts, I jumped the punchline. I was supposed to wait until you said “who”! See, this is why I need you to do the knock knock jokes!

Bridget: <sigh> Okay. I’ll find some more, But you know, You ask for SO MANY of them every day!

Bridget: Okay – real talk. Negotiating isn’t easy – it takes practice, patience and preparation. But don’t worry, we’ve got the perfect way to help you get ready.

Jed: The trick is — think of it like a top secret spy mission.

Jed: And anyone knows, a successful mission is all about preparation.

Bridget: So step one: Gather intel.

That means find out everything you can about the discussion at hand. Ask the other side QUESTIONS. Do research on the topic to support your side. Talk to someone who already figured out how to negotiate for the thing you’re asking for. Scope it out so you know what you’re up against.

Jed: Step 2: Get backup. Someone who can be a go-between for you and the person you’re negotiating with…like an older sibling or like an aunt or uncle. To help you when you get stuck. It’s like having that friend tracking you on their laptop and warning you about booby traps before you get to them.

Bridget: Step 3: Create a mission plan. Come up with reasons your parents might say no, then practice your answers. Start the Talk with questions, not demands. If they give you a reason you hadn’t thought of…pull back…we’re gonna try this mission again another day. Go to your secret headquarters to think of more answers, and do more research.

Jed: And finally Step 4: Stay cool. Spies need to keep calm under pressure and so do you. If you feel yourself getting riled up – ask if you can pause the talks for a while until you feel ready to dive back in.

Bridget: Now you’re ready for the mission. Good luck Agent. We’re rooting for ya.

Jed: Wow. I’m feeling super inspired! I want to go negotiate for something RIGHT. NOW.

Bridget: Well that’s perfect because I wanted to talk to you about all those jokes you keep asking for.

Jed: You love telling them and you have twenty more?

Bridget: No. I mean, I do love telling them — but it is a lot of work to meet your ginormous appetite for knock knock jokes.

Jed: I am insatiable.

Bridget: So – let’s negotiate. I know you don’t like looking them up because they aren’t as funny when you do.

Jed: Very true.

Bridget: And I know you want fresh jokes every day.

Jed: Also true.

Bridget: So – how about this. I’ll look up and memorize one new joke everyday — but you have to walk my pets.

Jed: <thinking> Hmm. Knock knock.

Bridget: Uhh… who’s there?

Jed: Itza.

Bridget: Itza who?

Jed: Itza deal! Now, where are those dogs?

Bridget: Awesome! We negotiated! And they’re not dogs. They’re cats! <opening door – cat come running out, meowing> There’s ten of them and they hate their leashes. And that friends is why you should always find out as much information as you can! Have fun! <meowing and purrrrrring/hissing>

Jed: Whoa! Gah! Down kitty, down. Okay – hold on. Ah! Sit. Ack. I should’ve asked for more jokes.

Jed: Hey, this is just me taking a minute to say THANK YOU to all of you who sent in your questions to our website, marketplace dot org, slash millions…

We’ve ALSO been asking some well-known grown ups to answer some questions for US…

Our next guest has had a career exploring strange new worlds…and taking us all along with him, in a book…a Reading Rainbow.

LeVar Burton: Hi, LeVar Burton here. So if I could design my own currency, I would definitely put Harriett Tubman on it. We had decided. It was a done deal, and then it was taken away. So I would like to right that wrong and put Harriett Tubman on the $20 dollar bill.

Jed: Guys, this might mean more to your parents than to you, BUT THAT WAS LEVAR BURTON!!!

Jed: Now, let’s see how things went for our pal, Ruby. She did her research. She prepared her arguments over a couple of months…and then she was ready to compromise. So — how did it go? Did she get a new phone?

Ruby: It worked! It’s right here!

Jed: Oh man, let’s see that thing.. How does it feel?

Ruby: I feel satisfied.

Jed: Did you remember the things that Carrie told you? Like the tips and tricks?

Ruby: Oh yeah, and I used them.

Jed: And how’d they work?

Ruby: They worked pretty good. I mean my mom was like “I can see that the negotiation paid off and you were very persuasive and yadda yadda yah.”

Jed: So, success! Now, here are the compromises: it’s not a brand new phone. It’s her dad’s old phone, which is still perfectly good. That takes care of the cost concern. And also, Ruby promised she wouldn’t use the phone all the time — like, wouldn’t be a zombie, just staring at a screen. So she got what she wanted and she addressed her mom’s concerns. IT’S A WIN-WIN!

Bridget: This is SO AWESOME!

Jed: She nailed it.

Jed: Time now for our Dollar Scholar of the Week…

Bridget: Where we hear from a kid who’s gotten better at understanding money and how we use it…and they’ve got some tips they want to share with the rest of us. .

Jed: Today’s Dollar Scholar of the week is Sevian, from Los Angeles. He’s 10. And he’s got a trick for managing his money.

Sevian: Me and my parents made up this rule where I save 40% of it for college. I spent 40% for like whatever I want, or I keep it for – to save up for something. The I donate 20% of it for charity.

Jed: How do you feel about this system, Sevi?

Sevian: We started doing the 40-40-20 system like, around my birthday, which was in March. Before I didn’t really get a lot of the money, it was mostly just for college.

Jed: Do you have plans to get something for yourself?

Sevian: Well, I got a couple of video games for my Nintendo Switch.

Jed: Sevi, how do you divvy up that money? Do you keep it in your room or do you keep in a bank?

Sevian: Some of it is in a bank, and some of it is in a box in my room.

Jed: Thank you for sharing that with us man.

Sevian: You’re welcome.

Jed: That was a really great tip from Sevian!

Bridget: If you want to nominate yourself or someone you know as a Dollar Scholar, hop on over to our website, marketplace dot org slash million.

Jed: Hang on. I got another thing I need to get off my chest. Can I get some… Western music?

Jed: Yeah! Listen up, buckaroos. Today, we’ve given you a pretty powerful tool for your woodshed. Negotiating will help you get better at communicating what you want and why. And it’s a durn sight better than kickin’ up a fuss when you don’t get your way.

But know this — sometimes, your folks, they’re just gonna say no, no matter how strong a case you make. And they get to do that, because, well, they’re your parents. You gotta trust that they have your best interests at heart.

Finally, once you do get the hang of negotiating, don’t overuse it. Save it for the big stuff. Because with great power comes great resp- [breaking character] Oh, wait no, that’s Spiderman. Oh, I should’ve asked for superhero music! Is it too late? Can I take it again? Did I sound ridiculous? I feel like I sounded ridiculous.

Bridget: Thanks for staying with us to the end, guys.

Jed: This has been Million Bazillion — where we help dollars make more sense… Our next episode is going to be all about why things cost what they do. AND…it’s Pizza Day!

Bridget: If you have something you want to ask us, send us your questions at Marketplace dot org slash million. If you like what you heard, subscribe wherever you get your podcasts…and leave us a rating or write us a review on Apple Podcasts…

Jed: Special thanks to Carrie Menkel Meadow whose very official title is professor of law and political science at UC Irvine. And thanks to Ruby, for learning about negotiation along with us!

Bridget: We also had help from Kimberly Adams, Sabri Ben-Achour, Austin Cross, Jack Stewart and Anna Weggel.

Jed: Million Bazillion is brought to you by Marketplace in collaboration with Brains On! And American Public Media.

Ben Tolliday is our sound designer composer. Our theme music was created by Wonderly. Bridget Bodnar is my co-host and the senior producer. Sanden Totten is our Editor. Sitara Nieves is the Executive Director of On Demand. Marketplace’s Senior Vice President and General Manager is Deborah Clark. I’m your host, Jed Kim.

Bridget: And special thanks to the people who provided the startup funding to make this show possible in the first place.The Ranzetta Family Charitable Fund and Next Gen Personal Finance, supporting Marketplace’s work to make younger audiences smarter about the economy.

Jed: See you next time.


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