Negotiating with yourself is part of the practice

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In every workshop I teach, I see participants come to a profound realization. Success in negotiation (whether you’re an entrepreneur or an employee or negotiating with the board you sit on) depends on your ability to first negotiate with yourself. Unfortunately, that is the hardest negotiation of all – which is why practice is so essential to building confidence and competence.

Recently, I was in a negotiation with another woman entrepreneur, who had offered to help me to promote my online course, Fearless Negotiation: Essentials for Entrepreneurs. The night before our meeting, I had gone through the same process of preparation that I teach my clients to do before a negotiation. I worked through my signature exercises to identify my wish list, my priorities, and what I was interested in gaining and offering in the negotiation. I knew exactly what my opening offer was going to be. I knew what my limits were. I had a plan.

The best laid plans…

Unfortunately, the meeting was in the morning and I had a terrible sleep the night before, because I had stayed up too late watching an intriguing show and didn’t get enough sleep. As an aside, I highly recommend Station Eleven if you have 10 hours to spare. So I rushed through my morning routine and skipped my mindset preparation. In retrospect, I should have skipped breakfast instead.

As I was on hold in the zoom waiting room, I glanced at my negotiation notes. On the desk in front of me, I had a list of my top three priorities. I also had a list of what I’d prefer to offer to her, and a list of low-value (to me, not to her) add-ons that I could throw in if I needed to. At the top of the page, I had a powerful statement that reminded me to know my value and remember that I am worthy of building wealth.

Not even thinking about it, I took my pen and stroked out the powerful statement. And when my eyes scanned my list of priorities, I scribbled out my top priority, and, without really thinking about it, shook my head and replaced it with an ask that was worth less than half its value. Then I moved down to my list of offers, and doubled – yes, doubled – the benefit I was going to offer them in my opening offer.

In other words, I negotiated with myself before I even got into that room and started negotiating for real.

The gift of reflection

I had to wait longer than expected, so I had the opportunity to walk back through all of the notes I had taken the day before, and review all the exercises I had put myself through. When I flipped the page to the mindset exercise that I had skipped that morning, I felt a wave of energy flush through my body. You know what I’m talking about. That whole-body shiver you feel all the way to the tips of your fingers and toes. The way a charge of static electricity permeates every molecule in your body for an undeniable moment of exhilaration, until…

Fuuuuuu…..

Yes. It hit me. I did the thing that I got into negotiation coaching to help women stop doing. I had let the little voice in my mind talk me out of a fair but powerful negotiation strategy. I had negotiated my opening offer down to a mediocre one before I even got in the room.

If you ask my husband, he will tell you that patience is most definitely not one of my great virtues. So on that day, I was already slightly annoyed that I had rushed to this meeting and was left in the waiting room for what felt like far too long. But once I recognized what was happening in my mind, that few extra minutes gave me a valuable gift: the opportunity to see what I had just done, and get my mindset back on track before I was invited into the zoom room.

Mindset is essential to negotiation

What did I do? Well, I went through the process that I coach my clients through.

What was I feeling? Anxious and inadequate. Like a total loser. Like a complete fraud.

Why? What was I thinking? Well, let’s start with How ridiculous! I’m a total hypocrite. I just negotiated myself out of a good offer and I’m launching a negotiation course and asking for her help. Who the hell am I to put forward that audacious request? Beyond that, I was thinking that she’d laugh at me, walk away from the conversation, and like me a little bit (or a lot) less for asking for what I was hoping for.

Is there a legitimate reason to feel like this? What are the actual facts? Fine. There was zero evidence to support my self-sabotaging thoughts. The owner has been extremely supportive of me along my journey and was the one who suggested we talk about her helping to promote my new program. I know I have a great reputation. I know the quality of the work I’ve done. And I know that it changes womens lives. I know this because I have a whole manilla folder full of beautiful emails from clients telling me that.

How is this thinking affecting your behaviour? Well clearly this kind of thinking was not serving me. It wasn’t helping me to feel confident going into the conversation. Ironically, I was falling prey to two of the most common blind spots that I teach women to look for in negotiation – the desire to be liked, and the overwhelming compulsion to be generous.

How might I flip the script? In that moment, I reflected on how grateful I was to have a few extra minutes to gather my thoughts and reset them based on all of the work I had done the day before. I rewrote my powerful thought, scratched out my edits, and rewrote the terms I wanted to negotiate. And while I was waiting (yes, still waiting), I had the time to read two embarrassingly flattering emails from recent clients who had benefitted from what I taught them. By the time the screen shifted and the zoom room opened up, I was back in the mindset I had planned.

Just like yoga, negotiation is a practice

I’ve been negotiating for years. I’ve been coaching people for years. I’ve been teaching negotiation for years. But I can still get caught up in the same blind spots that prevent most women from negotiating effectively. The difference is that I know what to look for. How to prepare. And how to recognize it and stop myself when I lose focus. The good news is that you can learn all of this too.

In a way, negotiation is a bit like yoga. Some days, even standing in mountain pose feels overwhelming. Other days, you feel like a warrior. But if you look at every day as an opportunity to practice, you continue to grow in strength, ability, and confidence.

Oh and if you’re wondering, I did really well in my negotiation.

Once we were into the conversation, my nerves calmed and I was able to stay present and focused. I secured the top two benefits I was hoping for and we came up with a really great compomise that is actually far more creative and beneficial than what I had come up with in my own planning. In other words, I nailed the warrior pose that day.

Keep learning!

If you’re an entrepreneur and you need a little help with kickstarting the awkward conversations that happen when you decide to raise your fees, then download your copy of Raise Your Rates: Simple Scripts for Entrepreneurs.

If you are interested in growing your negotiation skills, sign up below to get my weekly newsletter, which features information, education, and learning opportunities that can help you negotiate more effectively. It’s free and you can opt out at any time. In the meantime, you can read more of my blogs on negotiation and check out different the ways you can work with me.

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