How to stop gratitude from sabotaging you in your negotiations

Joanne gestures to writing on the wall that says: You can be grateful and ask for more

Gratitude is one of the most helpful simple practices you can use to reinforce your mental health and shift your mindset when you’re not in a great mood. But gratitude has a dark side that most women don’t think about. If you’ve ever found yourself feeling grateful to be in a position where you get to negotiate, it may be one of the biggest blind spots sabotaging your ability to get what you deserve and desire.

Gratitude is helpful for mental health

A few years ago, one of my family members was struggling with mental health. So as a family, we participated in a number of programs designed to increase mindfulness and strengthen all of our own positive mental health. One of the tools that we learned about was gratitude. The simple act of reflecting on elements of our lives for which we’re grateful can provide momentary (or longer) relief from defeatist thinking and help to shift our moods. It was one of many tools we learned about. But gratitude was one that stuck for me, because it’s easy, requiring absolutely no preparation or skills. It’s something I practice almost every day – and especially on days where everything just feels hard.

Gratitude has a dark side

Gratitude has its place. But it also has a dark side. Over the past ten years, I have been coaching women through negotiations in their jobs, their businesses, and their lives. Throughout this time, I have identified five blind spots that hold women back or sabotage them in negotiations. One of them is gratitude (the others are people-pleasing, humility, generosity, and faith).

One of the most common phrases I hear when working with women: I’m so grateful for the opportunity. That statement is fine on its own. However, it’s typically followed by another sentence – whether internalized, verbalized, or both. I’m so grateful for the opportunity. So I’m uncomfortable asking for more.

Gratitude is just the fancy packaging

This is the telltale sign that your gratitude has become a blind spot. It is no longer serving to shift your mood toward the positive. It has turned into an excuse for not standing up for what you deserve and desire.

Gratitude isn’t actually the problem here. It’s just a socially acceptable stand-in for our feelings of lack and unworthiness. And when we say these words out loud or to ourselves, we are condoning our limiting belief that keep us small.

Gratitude is powerful suppressant

The impact is significant. Gratitude as a blind spot can leave you feeling deferential in a negotiation. When you’re grateful just to be there and offered an opportunity (regardless of where or what you’re negotiating), you might find yourself elevating the needs of the other person and diminishing your own.

You may be overly agreeable to their interests and cautious about presenting the benefits that you want out of the deal.

In the worst situations, gratitude can compel you to simply accept what’s offered. No substitutions. No amendments. No adjustments that benefit you. You just say yes, sign the paperwork, and get out of that conversation as quickly as possible.

It’s risky to let gratitude blind you

If you are highly intimidated by the prospect of negotiation, you might be wondering what the problem is with just taking the deal. Here are just a few risks that come to mind:

  • Reputation: By not negotiating, you’re sending a message that you’re really not confident in what you have to offer. This can negatively affect how the other person sees you and influence their perspective on your overall competence.
  • Value: The first offer from across the table is rarely advantageous to you. More likely, it’s the lowest offer that the other person thinks (hopes) you might agree to. In other words, it’s good for them…not so good for you. It doesn’t appropriately compensate you for the value you offer. Do you really want to be known as a “good deal”?
  • Accountability: There might be things in that offer that you don’t want to be accountable for. But once you’ve signed, they’re your responsibility – whether you like them or not.
  • Regret and Resentement: Women who don’t negotiate, but later find out that they could have report alarming levels of regret and resentment toward the person across the table. If you accept what’s offered and later learn that there was a wide berth within which you could have negotiated, you’ll kick yourself for leaving so much on the table. You’ll feel taken advantage of, and that may lead to a worsening of your relationship with the other person.
  • Self-Respect: Ultimately, finding out that you’re working for far less than you might have only serves to lower your own opinion of yourself, leading to a vicious circle of self-deprecation.

Your socialization runs deep

Ultimately, the presence of gratitude as a blind spot in negotiation is hiding something deeper and more connected to how you were raised. Negotiation behaviour is shaped between the ages of 5 and 9. It’s not genetic. It’s socialized. And from the time you were young, you learned that it was important to be grateful for every little thing that someone did for you.

Those early experiences are deeply integrated into our sense of self, and so we struggle to hold two competing thoughts as true. However, I want you to know these are true. You just need to manage your thoughts a little more mindfully.

  • You can be grateful and ask for more.
  • You can be grateful and offer to do less.
  • You can be grateful and walk away if the offer doesn’t serve you.

Gratitude is not about accepting less than you deserve

Gratitude does not demand submission. But it does require that you dig a little deeper into the limiting beliefs that are hiding behind your feelings of gratitude. Do you believe that you’re not, in fact, qualified for the offer that’s on the table? Do you feel like an imposter? Do you hold a deep level of appreciation from the past for the person you’re negotiating with (this is a sneaky one might have you feeling like you owe them a debt of gratitude)? Are you breaking into a new area and do you feel like you don’t have the experience to ask for more?

How to start seeing and managing your gratitude

If you want to be grateful for something, be grateful that you read this article and opened your eyes.

The good news is that you can manage gratitude if it’s a blind spot for you. The first step of overcoming your blind spots is seeing them. When you start recognizing this behaviour in yourself, you have the power to put a stop to it.

Here is a quick process that can help you understand and manage your gratitude when you suspect it might be holding you back from asking for more:

  • Describe what you’re feeling. What are you grateful for?
  • Consider what you’re thinking. Why do think you feel this way? What are you pointing to in your own experience, skillset, or reputation that seems less-than? What do you believe about yourself that may be limiting?
  • What are the truths? What is actually real in this situation? It can be helpful to think about this question from the perspective of your best friend. What might they say about your experience, skillset, or reputation that is proof of a different reality?
  • How might you focus instead on a truth that is powerful?

Need more help?

If you find yourself approaching a negotiation and feeling fearful and overwhelmed, check out my Work With Me section for crash courses that can help you prepare to negotiate like a boss.

In the meantime, be sure to sign up for my weekly newsletter, where I share stories, advice, exclusive promotions, and other resources that are helpful as you negotiate work, life, and everything in between.

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