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Guess what

Alan Smith
© Halfpoint |

Guess what’s coming?

Not difficult, really!

John Lewis has released its new ad, the shops are full of tinsel and advent calendars, even Slade must be ready for their annual cheque for the never-grows-old “Merry Christmas Everyone”. That must be brilliant - writing a Christmas hit that is, not being an ageing Rock Star from the 70s. Although that said, the Stones look alright on it.

It is also the time every parent girds their loins ready for the expense of the season and critically, the onslaught of the Christmas list!

As a father of five mostly grown up kids, let me share with you some of my experiences of how to deal with the endless hours of emotional turmoil and pressure that come at you like a tsunami.  

First things first: start letting the kids know early that Santa has a lot of kids to deal with, and that they are unlikely to get a huge amount this year. This is typical conditioning behaviour. You know the one. Buyers telling sellers that costs are under scrutiny this year, and sellers telling buyers that raw material costs look like the might be going up, or staff costs and the war for talent is forcing prices up.

Standard stuff. If you really want to scar the kids (or scare them) you could always say your job is being potentially removed and Christmas may be cancelled. Not recommended if you want to build a relationship of trust and love. But your call!

Now you get to the MSA, I mean Christmas list itself.

Firstly, cap the list as soon as possible. Ask if this is the entire list. Now, of course, this is inherently challenging, because technically you are opening yourself up to the five-year-old recognising that maybe they should add a few more bits. But it does stop them adding new items in later, when you thought the deal had been done.

Second check the list’s priority. The wonderful ‘just suppose’ question is useful here: “Just suppose Santa could only give you a few of those items, which would you rather he gave you?”.

You can then use this information to narrow the list and focus your efforts on the priority items. All the crass responses like ‘they’re all important’ and ‘Santa should know what I want because he’s magic’, have to be ignored and drilled down on. You don’t want to create namby pamby spoilt brats do you?

Finally, you have to bring in the big guns, and trade some of your own wishes into the mix: “How about you tidy your room and eat your sprouts for the next 6 weeks, and I’ll see if I can have a word with the bearded one about that Play Station game you want?”. Six weeks is about right to build in a behaviour change. Not a bad deal for Fifa ’19!

The trouble with all these is that they require an iron will on the part of Mum and Dad, which I simply don’t have. Nonetheless, the skills are the same for Christmas or that big deal you have on your desk for next year’s Master Services Agreement proposal. That I can be more assertive with.

What do you do if you are the driver of the Christmas list? I’m not telling you - I’m not sure how many kids read this blog!

Be careful out there.

Alan Smith
More by Alan Smith:
Play Nice!
Do I Negotiate?
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