I am posting this more than a week after the event. Only with this much distance am I able to see things from both perspectives. With hindsight I now understand where both we and our purchasers were coming from. The lesson, funnily enough, is something we often say to potential clients: "ask for help before it's too late"
What went wrong?
Like most people we left the actual negotiation of our house sale to our Estate Agent - to avoid the potential for face-to-face confrontation with our buyers. The disadvantage was, both we and they put our own interpretation on the agreement.
After we accepted their offer we met our buyers to negotiate over the things we would leave behind and they wanted to buy. Because we are 'down-sizing' and they are 'up-sizing' this seemed to make a lot of sense. However, we didn't get very far into the conversation before all four of us were emotional and taking defensive positions.
It seemed to us as if our purchasers were taking a very hard line - perhaps because of the current 'Buyers' Market' - and expecting many items to be included in the house price. At an emotional level it sounded as if they were doing us a favour in buying our house and we had no reassurance that they would love it as we had.
For our part we brushed aside their concerns about unexpected events and costs to do with their sale as mechanisms to negotiate a cheaper price. Things quickly escalated to the point where the house sale itself was threatened and Nigel and I immediately knew we could not continue this negotiation.
It's not what you say, it's what you mean
Over the weekend we took our time to reflect on what had happened. We had already spoken to the estate agent who was keen to take over the process of negotiation on our behalf. At first she simply talked about the value of individual items - a process of chipping away at prices we had arrived at and leaving us feeling even more disgruntled. Then she and I had a fuller discussion which got to the heart of the issue for us.
There was naturally a financial aspect to our negotiations, which I'm not going to go into. What was more important were the emotional aspects. These needed to be put on the table before we could move forward. It made all the difference to Nigel and I when we heard that our buyers love our house and cannot wait to move in. We were further moved by a greater understanding of the stress they were under. But what probably made the biggest difference was when I talked about our need for future security and for 'fair play' - and I was listened to. I don't know how much was passed on, I just know that after the conversation when I was open about my feelings and the agent really listened, she was able to broker a deal that we all signed up to. Now we're back on track.
A little bit more about signing up to the deal
Like most couples when it comes to the big decisions, Nigel and I like to talk things through and share responsibility. This is not something we find easy. We have very different approaches to this, which is evident in our language and behaviour patterns. And when we're under stress it's difficult to remain resourceful and understanding about the different way we do things. Lucky for us we have a rich tool kit for unravelling those difficult times - so even if we cannot always prevent an argument, we can always find a way to repair it. More on this another time.