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02/22/2017


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Going with the Win: Scarlett O'Hara Negotiates Life

By JemmaBlythe Alexander Shelton-Spurr (JB Shelton)


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Southern belle Scarlett O'Hara, heroine of Margaret Mitchell's Gone with the Wind, was portrayed with an independent attitude, an adventurous spirit, and an intriguing intensity toward getting her way. From the beginning of the Civil War (1861-1865) until the end of the Reconstruction Era (1865-1877), Scarlett transformed herself from petulant manipulator to mature woman negotiator. Romance, history and techniques for negotiating life with intelligence and intuition abound in this Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of unrequited love and Southern survival.

Meet Scarlett and the men who shaped her talents and creativity as a negotiator.


Set Priorities

"Land is the only thing in the world that amounts to anything,
for 'tis the only thing in this world that lasts."

Gerald O'Hara, Tara Plantation Owner, Scarlett's Father


Giving parental advice to 16-year-old Scarlett in 1861 wasn't any easier or immediately effective than it would be with a 21st-century teen. Teens of any era will roll their eyes, sigh deeply as adults share wisdom, and seek distractions - be it a getaway walk under the magnolias or a manic tweeting session.

Gerald O'Hara's daughter was caught in a love triangle with heart-throb Ashley Wilkes and her competitor Melanie Hamilton. Dad was attempting to comfort her as she faced the disappointment of the other woman winning her beloved beau.

Did her father's words, "Land is the only thing in the world that amounts to anything, for 'tis the only thing in this world that lasts," quickly convince Scarlett that the land is and will always be the most important thing in her life?

Is it worth the investment in time, energy and communication to propose lifelong values, as her father did? Yes, all y'all! By the end of the book, Scarlett learns that interpersonal relationships (including three marriages) diminish and disappear. Her decision to go home to Tara provides her comfort, hope and plans for the future.

Negotiating requires maturity. Ground yourself in what is truly important for the present and future. Consider your opponent's individual needs and behaviors and phrase your communications to direct his attention and actions.

Deliver your messages with confidence. Do not necessarily expect immediate positive results. Timing and patience are two attributes of excellent negotiators.


Think Courageously

"The people who have brains and courage come through
and the ones who haven't are winnowed out."

Ashley Wilkes, Southern Gentleman, Scarlett's Unrequited Love


Positive self-talk is the ability to convince ourselves that we can conquer challenges, change minds, and achieve the thought-of-as-unachievable. The successful negotiator is proud, confident and willing to take chances. She does all in her power to win.

Scarlett is a woman blessed with brains and courage. Her survival instincts control her behavior. As the Old South becomes history and Reconstruction creates the New South, she lets go of a past that is 'gone with the wind' of change. She cherishes historic values and acts upon those to benefit her future.

She comes to understand that having a flirty smile and a 24"-inch waist can't charm her way into business success. Learning to respect herself as a logical, determined and focused owner of, first a sawmill, then the plantation, requires her to become the self she was destined to be. Living in the present, Scarlett controls as much as possible of her future. How will you maximize your control over your future?


Give a Damn

"Rhett, if you go, where shall I go? What shall I do?"
Scarlett's plea to Rhett Butler
"My dear, I don't give a damn."
Rhett's response


Scarlett and Rhett are perpetually seducing each other. They live in a love-hate relationship based on their personality similarities and differences. They conquer life-threatening situations as they weave in and out of each other's lives. Rhett guides her safely out of Atlanta as the Northern forces burn the city to the ground. He abandons her to join the Confederate Army before they reach Tara. This forces, and then encourages, her to become her own woman, the woman who declared, "As God is my witness, I'll never be hungry again."

Who is your mentor, motivator and muse? As a negotiator, do your personal and professional support systems say what they mean and mean what they say? Do they offer honest and true reactions and opinions during negotiations? Are you a mentor, motivator and muse to someone else?


Think Ahead

"Tomorrow is Another Day."
Scarlett O'Hara


Consider Scarlett's most famous phrase: "I'll think of it all tomorrow, at Tara. I can stand it then. Tomorrow, I'll think of some way to get him back. After all, tomorrow is another day."

Even the best negotiators need the rest and restoration in thought and body supplied by a good night's sleep. When our challenges are overwhelming, rather than act abruptly and unclearly, remember that tomorrow is another day. Be ready for a fresh start. Give yourself time to release the emotional components inherent in communications.

Life is filled with ever-changing challenges and options. So are negotiations. Do you have the courage to examine your thoughts and deeds, to determine your wants and goals, before entering a negotiation? The best way to succeed tomorrow is to plan for it today.

The prospect of change can put fear in our hearts and minds. Negotiating well is about controlling as much as possible of the situation. Scarlett's survival and her protection of family and friends meant being ruthless and taking ends-justifying-means actions.

The prospect of change can put fear in our hearts and minds. Negotiating well is about controlling as much as possible of the situation. Scarlett's survival and her protection of family and friends meant being ruthless and taking ends-justifying-means actions.

We are not heroines and heroes of an historic novel. We are people negotiating our way through our lives with our own challenges. Learning to put our best selves forward (for we have to live with ourselves) is a page to be taken from our own life stories.



JB Shelton Photo
JemmaBlythe Alexander Shelton-Spurr (JB Shelton) is a journalist based in Raleigh and Oxford, NC. She writes about children growing up and grownups reinventing themselves. JB teaches Professional Negotiating Skills: Transforming Life's Challenges into Win-Win Results at Duke University in Durham, NC.  Angel in Your Mirror: Musings from the Curly Mind of JB Shelton-Spurr is available on amazon.com. Reach her by e-mail at jbshelton@gmail.com.




Copyright © 2013 JemmaBlythe Alexander Shelton-Spurr
Copyright ©   2013  The Negotiator Magazine
The Negotiator Magazine  August 2013