How blind spots sabotage your negotiationsMay 23, 2023
When I teach the negotiation process to women, they often struggle with one of the first steps, which is defining what they desire. Whenever we negotiate, we need to start with ourselves – what we actually want. But often, it’s hard for us to see past our blind spots, which are shaped by the outcomes and priorities that society tells us we want. A recent experience highlighted this in a hard way for me. So I want to share my story and arm you with some questions that can help you to get past your conditioning and into depths of the question: What do I really desire?
What I thought I wanted
Last fall, I found myself struggling with the long process of bringing my negotiation book to life. If you’ve been following me for a while, you might know that I am working with a wonderful writing coach, Lauren Marie Fleming, and working my way through her Write Your Friggin Book Already™ program. Last summer, I wrote my ugly first draft. I felt like I was on my way to being published, but then I lost steam.
I went to a workshop about how to land a publishing deal. During that workshop, the facilitator (not Lauren) shared the importance of building a huge audience for my book. I know – sounds obvious; I do need people to buy my book – and so yes, I knew this. But she also said that agents won’t even want to see a copy of my manuscript, just a proposal. She said those same agents would then tell me how the book should flow and who the audience should be. And the biggest shocker was still to come. She said I should stop writing and editing immediately and focus my attention simply on getting more followers on social media.
It's normal for rejection to hurt
I left that workshop feeling completely deflated. I knew a traditional book deal was a long process. But I never thought part of the process would require me to stop writing. Or that the agent would have control over what the book was about. If it’s my book, shouldn’t it be my book? Shouldn’t I get to decide what’s in it?
But, she was the expert. And I’ve learned to listen to experts throughout my life. So I stopped editing and focused on building my audience on Instagram. Unfortunately, she told me, the 4000+ folks I’m connected with on LinkedIn don’t count – even though many of those are actually solid connections. Instead, Instagram, TikTok, and Facebook are the platforms that agents and publishers understand – so that’s where I needed to focus.
Trust your intuition when something doesn't feel right
I really dislike facebook (sue me, Mark Zuckerberg) and I just don’t get TikTok. So I determined I would go all in on Instagram. If you were following me there, you might have noticed me posting every day and talking or posting to stories every couple of hours. I was writing a weekly article, building posts and reels that riffed off it, and spoke face-to-screen every single day.
It was completely soul-sucking. And the worst part: it was only getting me about three new followers every two days. I tried to make myself feel better by doing the math. But that only made things worse. I calculated that since I need another 9,000+ followers, it would take me 16 years to get to the level that would make me publishable! [Yes, I know it works more like a snowball, but I was trying to catastrophize over here, okay?]
Pessimism aside, I just didn’t think I could possibly keep making dorky reels and talking into the camera nonstop every day for the length of time it would take to get a deal. I had real work to do, which meant supporting corporate clients, speaking at events, and helping women negotiate for what they deserve every single day.
A coach helps you grow and reminds you of your why
When I showed up for my group coaching call with Lauren on Tuesday, I was in full-on doom spiral mode. When she asked how my book was coming along, my eyes welled up and my throat tightened. When she asked how I felt about telling my story, I started to ugly-cry.
It just felt so out of reach.
But then she asked me some magical questions.
What would success look like for this book?
Are the things you’re doing in service of your book helping to bring that vision into reality?
I didn’t want what I thought I wanted
As I thought about her first question, I realized it wasn’t the label of New York Times Bestseller that really matters to me. Let me clarify – if that’s actually on the table, I’m all in for a 7-figure publishing deal. But it isn’t the thing that’s driving me.
When I close my eyes and picture success, I see my book in the hands of female entrepreneurs. I see myself signing it at Willlow Press, my favourite local independent bookstore. I see myself giving copies of it to young women. And I imagine talking to people who couldn’t afford my $500 course, but who bought my book, dog-eared 43 pages of it, and are taking my advice in every one of their negotiations – and killing it.
My path wasn’t joyfully supporting my book
When I thought about the second question, I struggled to answer. I hadn't been editing. I hadn't been interviewing more women to be included. The only thing I HAD been doing was making content for the algorithm.
Now, to be honest, I sometimes enjoy making reels. Sometimes. And I do love talking into the camera about negotiation. I even love going live and answering your questions or freewheeling on a specific topic. But not every two hours. Not with the right keywords. Not on the schedule that Mark Zuckerberg determines is necessary.
“If it’s killing you, take some time away”
At some point during the call, Lauren suggested I take a month off from social media. Find other ways to get generate income. Focus on networking, speaking, maybe even run a VIP event where we do a deep dive into negotiation strategy in your sector (do let me know if you’d be into something like that). But she told me to stay off social. And use that time to do work that’s truly in service of my book.
So that’s what I did.
Do the things that feel good
I took a full month off social media. I ran some masterclasses, went to a ton of live, in-person events, and spent time editing.
And you know what? Nothing changed on my social media platforms.
I still gained 2 new followers every couple of days. My reels kept playing. When I'd be in the community, friends would tell me I was killing it on social media - even though I hadn't been present for weeks.
It didn't make a difference. Not to my sales anyway.
Rejecting what you think you should want is a rebellion
But it made a huge difference in my life to reject that idea that I had to follow the path that everyone told me I should want.
The morning after the coaching call where Lauren told me to take a vacation from social media, I sat down with my journal, as I always do, for an hour of writing random thoughts. I processed my desire to get a traditional publishing deal. I processed my commitment to the Instagram algorithm. And I had a moment of revelation that is still sitting with me six months later.
If you know my history, you know that I spent 19 years of my career in public service. One of my greatest skills was figuring out how to actually get stuff done inside a bureaucratic system that wasn’t equipped for quick decision-making. I always said that it was my priority to understand the system so I could work the system. And when I climbed to the senior executive level, I used my authority to improve the system and start dismantling the pieces that were broken.
I never considered just ignoring the system.
Choosing to ignore the Instagram algorithm is an act of rebellion. So is saying I don’t care about getting on the New York Times Bestseller List. These are rejections of the institutions and systems that we are conditioned to believe in.
How dare I reject these precious creations of powerful white men!
I absolutely love building in-person networks, speaking at events, and building strong relationships with women who value my content.
After reflection, I also recognized that I love the idea of hybrid publishing. I have incredible friends who can be my dream marketing team. And I have no doubt my book will find its readers - especially when you're so generous in sharing my content.
My fear comes from rejecting the things that privileged white men have conditioned me to believe are the things I want. Internet fame. New York Times Bestseller behind my name. A traditional publishing deal that reinforces the hoops that we need to jump through to have our voices and ideas heard (and then only get 2-3% of profits from the sale of MY intellectual property).
The illusion disappeared
I didn’t spend 19 years trying to work inside patriarchal systems only to become an entrepreneur and repeat those lessons a second time.
Sometimes dismantling the system is just too much work. Instead we need to reject it.
What do you think you want?
There are lessons here for you, as you plan for your next negotiation.
Maybe negotiation itself isn’t uncomfortable. Maybe it’s actually just a normal conversation where you and another person work on coming to an agreement that is a good fit for both of you. Maybe you’re actually great at that kind of empathetic and collaborative conversation.
Maybe the uncomfortable part is just that one little step of defining your desires: sitting down and articulating what you want.
Maybe it’s uncomfortable because, your whole life, you’ve never been able to answer that question authentically.
Maybe you, like so many women, have been socialized to believe that what you want is to be happy with what you’re offered, to be humble and gracious, to say yes more than you say no, and to take other people at their word.
Maybe the hard part of negotiation is finally seeing your blind spots for what they are. The wishes that other people have for you.
Not sure how to negotiate? Negotiation is about reclaiming your power.
I often share an interesting tidbit that comes from psychology research. That is: negotiation behaviour is shaped in children between the ages of 5 and 9. It’s not genetic. It’s socialized. At 5, all children are equally audacious in their requests. But by 9, children raised as girls have learned that it’s not polite to ask for what they really want.
We carry this social conditioning throughout our lives. It manifests as our compulsion to demonstrate gratitude, humility, generosity, faith, and people-pleasing behaviour – in every area of our lives.
This leads to us staying in low paying jobs longer than we should. It leads to us accepting lower wages, higher workloads, and more non-promotable tasks. In entrepreneurship, it leads to us bootstrapping and growing incrementally rather than seeking venture funding, shying away from promoting ourselves, and offering our products and services well below the value that clients are willing to pay.
Five questions to help you get what you want from your next negotiation
If you are preparing for a negotiation – at home, at work, or in your business – then one of the most important steps you can take is determining what you truly desire out of the potential deal. Grab your journal and a fresh cup of coffee. Turn your phone off and put some relaxing music on in the background. Ask yourself:
- What would success look like? How would it feel?
- What is the most generous agreement possible? What are the components of that agreement?
- Why are those components important to me?
- Are any of the components things I should want? Do I really want them?
- What is the importance of those components? Why do I think I should care?
These are some of the questions that can help you unpack your own complicated conditioning. Maybe you’re telling yourself that money doesn’t really matter, because that’s what you’re supposed to say when you work in social services.
But maybe it does. It’s ok to want the freedom of not worrying about paying your bills. It’s ok to want to buy yourself a new car that you don’t have to worry about. It’s ok to want to spoil yourself. These desires don’t make you a bad person. They don’t make you a bad spouse or mother. They make you human.
Apply negotiation everywhere in your life
Most people only think about negotiation when it's too late. A job offer is on the table and you're feeling grateful for the offer and just want to say yes. Or an opportunity to work with a dream client comes up and you want them to see you as fair and generous in your pricing.
The way to leverage these opportunities to optimize your results is by implementing negotiation skills in your life every day. And the first step is seeing those opportunities.
Whether at home, at work, in your business, with your friends, or with yourself, you have opportunities every day to negotiate for better outcomes. Click here now to download my free guide - Negotiate Now: 20 Situations you Can Negotiate Today.