One of the lessons about negotiating that was easy for me to understand, but that I still have a hard time incorporating into my practice, is that it’s a waste of time to get caught up in what I think of the person I’m negotiating with.
For instance, if I’m negotiating with someone that I think is a real jerk, it’s not helpful to the negotiation to focus on the fact that I think he or she’s a jerk. I’ll spend a lot of energy and attention on what I think of them, and not have that energy and attention to focus on getting what I want.
But guess what? It’s really hard to ignore people who are jerks!
The same is true when you’re pitching to someone who you view as being very powerful, someone who you see as being able to say “yes” or “no” to something that’s important to you. It’s natural to be a bit nervous, but if you focus too much on how powerful you think they are, you’ll freak yourself out and not stand up for yourself in the negotiation.
Right about now you might expect I’ll give you advice to simply ignore how jerky and/or powerful you think the other person is and with laser like focus concentrate on your interests and needs in the negotiation.
That is not my advice.
That is not my advice because I don’t think it’s possible. If you think someone is a jerk or very powerful you can’t make yourself unthink that.
What you can do is set yourself up for success with good preparation, pay attention to your reactions, and, when in doubt, use your interests to guide you through the negotiation.
Setting Yourself Up for Success
Preparing for a negotiation is crucial, but it’s particularly important when you’re negotiating with someone you don’t like or with someone you find intimidating.
In both situations there is a tendency to let how you feel about the person be the driving force in how you negotiate. The problem with this approach is that if you focus on these feelings you’ll end up negotiating the relationship, not the gig or deal. Even worse, you might not notice that’s what you’re doing until the ink is dry and you realize you don’t actually have what you needed to get out of the negotiation.
By preparing for the negotiation you can clearly identify what your interests are (why you want what you want), the goals that this particular negotiation is serving and what you’ll use as a back-up plan if this doesn’t work out. Knowing these three things can help you shift your focus away from how you feel about the other person and toward things that will actually help you.
The other thing you can do to prepare is practice: in the shower, in your car, with a friend, with your dog. Practice your pitch or how you’ll handle difficult situations so that you aren’t doing it for the very first time in the actual negotiation.
Pay Attention to Your Reactions
If you find yourself getting upset or exceptionally nervous during the negotiation, take a break. Say you have to go to the bathroom or that you need some time to think about their offer.
Don’t force yourself to stay in an uncomfortable situation where it’s difficult to think and evaluate what’s going on.
I was talking to some editors and agents recently about what it’s like to be pitched a manuscript. Many of them said the hardest pitches were the ones where the author was particularly nervous. The editor or agent spent a good bit of the pitch worrying about the author and if he or she was OK. This meant they weren’t able to pay attention to the pitch they way they wanted to.
I mention this because sometimes we think others don’t notice how we’re reacting and it’ll be better if we just push through. Nope. They notice.
It’s much easier for everyone if you can say, “Just a second, I want to make sure I present this properly,” take a deep breath, calm down a bit and jump back in when you’re ready.
Let Your Interests Guide You
When you’re negotiating with someone you find irritating or who you think holds the keys to the castle, take some extra time when considering their offers. Use this time to make sure how you want to react to their offer actually lines up with and supports your interests.
If what you want to say or do doesn’t line up with your interests, don’t do it. Sounds simple, but it isn’t.
When was the last time you wanted to do something just to tick someone off? To impress the heck out of them?
These impulses don’t disappear during a negotiation. But instead of recognizing them as emotional reactions, we can get confused and think it’s a strategy for getting what we want.
It isn’t. It’s a distraction.
Let your interests guide how you negotiate and you’ll be in a much better negotiating position. And more likely to get what you need.
True facts: jerky people are jerky and intimidating people are intimidating. But if you only focus on those facts when you negotiate with them, you’ll miss out on some potentially great opportunities.
Instead: prepare, pay attention to yourself and use your interests when in doubt. You’ll be aces.
Categories: Dealing with People