I was talking to a friend last week about her freelance career. She’d accomplished a lot recently, but kept poo-pooing the value of the work she’d done: it wasn’t exciting or lucrative, it was “just” work. I reminded her that all work was important when building a business and warned her against indulging in negative talk about her accomplishments.
Later that night my wife asked me how my day was. I answered: “Okay, I guess. I did a lot and was busy all day, but I don’t feel like I got anything important done.”
“Can you hear yourself?”
At some point in time we will, all of us, fail to realize how flipping great we are. We will undervalue our accomplishments and belittle our efforts. We might do this while laughing, or in a way that suggests we’re merely challenging ourselves to do better.
No matter how we coat it, this negative self-talk is dumb and unhelpful.
It’s dumb because it doesn’t accomplish anything, except maybe increase our stress levels. Think back to the last time you were beating up on yourself. What benefit did that self-flagellation produce? (Hint: It was none, nada, zero, zip.)
It’s unhelpful because you can hear yourself when you talk. And what you hear about your capabilities has an impact on what you believe yourself to be capable of.
No, I did not just make that up to help you feel better about yourself. Self-talk influences outlook, belief and self-evaluation. And when you use “You” instead of “I” while doing it, it’s even more powerful.
So what does this have to do with negotiation?
If you approach a negotiation believing that you are at a disadvantage, or that this deal is the only way you’ll ever achieve your goals, you won’t do very well. Your attention will be split between handling the negotiation and worrying about whether you’re good enough to handle the negotiation. That second thing is a mighty big distraction from the first.
Yet, even knowing that, we all still slip into negative self-talk. So what can you do when it happens?
Your number one job is to notice when you start speaking negatively to yourself. Once you’ve noticed you’re not as self-encouraging as you could be, here are a few things you can do to self-correct.
Have a Go-To Replacement Phrase
Once you get into the rut of negative self-talk it can be hard to pull yourself out. Make it easier by having a phrase you always use when you notice you’re not your biggest fan. “You’re doing a good job,” or “You can do this!”are both great go-to phrases. Easy to remember and widely applicable.
Treat Yo’self (…Like Someone Else)
Ever notice that when your friends talk about the work that’s intimidating them or the stress they’re experiencing you never respond with, “That’s right! You’re totally screwing those things up! Also, have you considered worrying about…”? That’s because you’re not a jerky friend. So don’t be a jerk to yourself.
If a friend came to you with the worries you’re dealing with, what would you say to them? Say those things to yourself.
Go to the Bathroom
There is something about our brains that lends extra credibility to statements that come with a visual. So go to the bathroom, stand in front of the mirror and give yourself a pep talk. This can be especially helpful before a meeting you’re intimidated about, or in the middle of a negotiation. Bonus: taking a small break during a tense negotiation can sometimes be a big help for everybody’s mood and sense of perspective.
Eliminating negative self-talk won’t make you a negotiation super star all on its own, but it will make negotiating easier and less intimidating. And that means you’ll have the space to practice your negotiation skills and improve. And that means you’ll be well on your way to becoming a super star.
What positive self-talk tricks do you use?