Every day we engage a series of small negotiations, though we rarely think of them that way. Our interactions with family, friends, neighbors, those we work with and the people we meet in the grocery store all include negotiations. Who will make dinner, pay the bills or take out the trash? Who will stay late to finish a job? What will we do for entertainment on Saturday night?
It’s clear we’re negotiating when we purchase a home or a car. In business, we negotiate salaries, cost of goods, time for delivery and so on. The point is, negotiating doesn’t stop with major purchases or in the workplace. We’re negotiating all day long - sometimes with ourselves - and most of us don’t have a clue how to do it well.
The art of negotiation begins with our mindset.
Do you expect negotiations to yield a favorable outcome for both parties? Or does one person win and the other lose? Maybe you expect outcomes to end with compromise so both parties give something up, and no one really “wins”. Do you look forward to these mini-negotiations, anticipating that you’ll learn more about the other person – and possibly yourself?
Marlene, a new friend, sent a text asking if I’d like to meet for dinner. Saying “yes” means we’ll select a general location, date, time and specific restaurant. We have a common goal, to have an enjoyable dinner connection, so it’ll be relatively easy to create a win-win outcome. I ask, “Do you like Thai food?” Marlene says, “I’m allergic to soy.” She recommends a restaurant where I ate earlier in the week, and I decline. Back and forth we go until we select a restaurant with a water view that we’re both happy with. The whole process took less than 10 minutes. I discovered she has an allergy to soy. She learned I like variety.
What have you learned during the past week of “negotiations” about family members, friends, the people you work with - and even yourself?
Let’s step it up a notch. Imagine you’re buying a new car and walk onto the car lot assuming the sales person wants to sell the car for as much as possible. Of course, you want to pay as little as possible. This potentially sets up a competitive and possibly contentious negotiation. During the test drive, you ask a number of questions and you learn that this dealership compensates its sales people based on their customer evaluation - regardless of the sales price. Delighted by this unexpected information, you offer to provide an excellent evaluation in exchange for a great price on the car. Both you and the sales person receive what you want. This win-win outcome wouldn’t have happened, if you hadn’t challenged your original assumption and dared to ask new questions.
A mindset of curiosity, agility and collaboration is more likely to create a win-win outcome than a mindset of certainty.
Pause for a moment to notice the number of decisions you make in a single day relative to the number you made ten years ago. How many of those include mini-negotiations with another person? What happens when that negotiation comes at a time when you’re thinking about something else, are tired or you just hit the brakes because someone pulled in front of you?
It’s easy to blame situations and circumstances for the times we don’t navigate our negotiations optimally, but there’s another way. Being proactive with our mindset increases our sense of calm, creativity and confidence. And that drastically increases the likelihood that we’ll end the day with a strong sense of fulfillment in both our personal and professional lives.