BDSM consent and negotiation guidelines

by La quarta corda

3 – The negotiation vocabulary


We all negotiate continuously throughout our lives to assert our needs and limits, to respect those of others and to find solutions between different positions.

So let us examine together some of the terms used in negotiating.

When two – or more – people have a divergence of interests or needs, a “conflict” is said to exist. This word does not have a negative meaning, but it represents an important moment in which we define ourselves and learn to relate to others. It is no coincidence that conflict has been compared to water: too much water destroys and drowns, too little dries and withers, but the right amount helps to grow.

Negotiation is the “strategy” we employ to resolve the conflict and to seek a solution.

Different “types of negotiation” exist:

  • avoiding, when we abstain from negotiating by stalling or evading discussion;
  • competitive, when we want to pursue our interests to the detriment of the partner’s;
  • accomodating, when we sacrifice our own interests to satisfy the partner’s;
  • compromising, when we opt of a halfway-point agreement;
  • collaborative, when we seek a solution satisfying both partners’ needs.

Let’s give an example: two persons want an orange. An avoiding strategy could be thinking that, in order not to divide it, they both give up the fruit. If they start attacking, threatening or even beating each other to get the orange, that would be a competitive negotiation. And again: if one of the two, even though they want the fruit, yields out of fear of losing their friendship, then they will negotiate accomodating. A compromising negotiation may be to go halfsies, but this may not satisfy either of the two, who might still be hungry after eating their share. Still, the two parties might also talk and find that maybe one wants a juice, while the other needs the peel to make a cake; in this case it would be possible to implement a collaborative negotiation that satisfies everyone’s needs.

In our lives we negotiate differently depending on the circumstances: sometimes we are forced to defend our needs tooth and nail, other times we have to give in, other times yet we have to accept a middle ground, but, as we have seen, the most effective negotiation, when possible, is the one that manages to satisfy the everyone’s needs.

“Agreement” – or consent – is the fruit of negotiation and represents the very real awareness and understanding of one’s own and others’ needs, interests and positions.

An agreement may not always be also a “solution”; sometimes we can simply agree that there are no choices to satisfy everyone, while still trying to manage the situation in the best possible way. Generally speaking, understanding that we cannot find a mutually satisfactory solution is better than accepting an unsatisfactory one, so as not to develop resentment and aggression later on.

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2 – A few definitions

4 – Trust

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