Negotiating with yourself is the hardest stepMay 21, 2022
It's almost 3pm on a Tuesday. You're past the mid-point of your work day - but you're well past your limit on stress. You have a few more things you need to get done today, but every time you check your inbox, you see even more requests, more expectations, more stress. And your family doesn't even show up in your inbox. When you power down your computer - at 5, 6, or sometimes 9pm, you enter the other part of your life, where there is a never-ending supply of requests, expectations and stress. The reality is, you probably lost a dozen negotiations today, and you're going to lose them again tomorrow…which means you'll keep adding to your stress and overwhelm. Confused? You don't recall negotiation opportunities? It's because you don't even notice them. Some of them are with other people. You know - the difficult conversations you've been avoiding or the collaborations that you're really not optimizing. But the big ones, the negotiations you need to master…they're with yourself. And they're almost impossible to see if you're not looking for them.
You start by fighting your own dark side
Whenever women entrepreneurs come to me for advice and support in their business negotiation strategies, we always find our way to the topic of negotiating with ourselves. That's because, for women, the hardest part of negotiating an actual deal is getting ourselves to the conversation. To get there, the badass business owner in you needs to negotiate with the self-conscious, fearful, woman who has been socialized to focus on everyone else first. She might seem humble and compassionate. But when she's negotiating with badass you, she's tricky. She tells you all kinds of things to keep you safe, protected, and small. She reminds you of your fears. She shines light on your insecurities. And she offers you the comfort of maintaining the status quo and not daring to dream. She will happily drag you back into the safety of the shadows. And you will go willingly, avoiding the unknown.
If you can't convince yourself to try to negotiate, there's really no point in learning my negotiation framework of confidence, knowledge, and strategy. If you can't win a negotiation with yourself, then you might as well make the conscious choice to stay small, keep scraping by, and stay balanced on that narrow path where a false move drops you into bankruptcy on your left and burnout on your right.
Let light in
I don't think you want that. You're here. You're reading this article. Maybe you're even subscribed to my newsletter. You want to take control. You want to win those negotiations, first with yourself, and then with others. If you can win a negotiation with your own fearful side, there is a whole world of opportunity to explore in your business.
Every collaboration opportunity expands beyond just helping one another and into a mutually beneficial agreement that offers exponential benefits. When you allow yourself to enter a negotiation with optimism, completely grounded in your values, you create opportunities to get exactly what you deserve and desire. And when you start to apply the lessons of negotiation in your personal life, you'll find less stress, more joy, and more time for yourself.
Practice builds proficiency
As with all skills in life, negotiation skills get stronger the more you practice them. Don't wait for an important negotiation to try them out. Negotiate every day. Every chance you get.
I start every morning with a negotiation with myself. Will I follow my routine and give myself the important time I need to ease in, reflect, and spend 45 minutes writing whatever thoughts come to mind? Or will I waste that time wiping down the kitchen counters, emptying and reloading the dishwasher, and washing the pots that nobody bothered to do the night before? It might not sound like a big win, but every day I win that first negotiation with myself, I set myself up for success.
From there, my day will involve many negotiations - with my kids and my husband over responsibilities, behaviours, and plans. I'll negotiate with potential partners, negotiating for the specific needs that I have in my business (right now, I'm focused on expanding affiliations and growing my reach to more entrepreneurs, but those needs change over time). I'll also negotiate with potential clients, identifying the most effective and mutually beneficial ways we can work together. In a typical day, I'd say I have at least 8 opportunities to negotiate with others and at least a dozen opportunities to negotiate with myself. But if I don't win the negotiations with myself, then my negotiations with others are a shadow of what they could be.
It all comes back to you
Building negotiation skills is something you can do every day. When you start, you want to start small. Negotiating for that time you need in the morning. For a split of household chores. For a partner to share your posts on Instagram. Not for a new retail space, a multi-year contract, or with partners over the ownership of your business.
Start in places where you can practice using the language of negotiation. Where it's easy to identify what your needs and wants are. In places where you can walk away and reset if it doesn't go well. Practice here, and it will come easier in higher risk situations.