I’ve never considered myself an above average negotiator. I actually am pretty afraid of the whole concept. I don’t like the thought of sitting down at a table, across from someone in a suit, to have a Jedi mind battle over something. Particularly not if it’s over money.
But negotiation happens all the time. And it’s usually not in sweaty, tense, closed-door rooms. Negotiation is about coming to an agreement about something. The driving force is the value people hold in their minds about it.
I have my ideas of how much my old pair of Levi’s, for example, are worth. They’re getting a bit ratty, but they feel great when I wear them. And they hold a lot of meaning for me. I’ve had them for a while, and feel that they embody some of the important things that have happened. I also love to start with something new and use it for a very long time. It gives me a sense of dedication, loyalty, and practicality.
I looked up the model number of these jeans online and found they come to a measly $20 on most sales postings. My jeans are worth more than that to me. The cash I could get for them doesn’t equal how I feel about them.
It may not be in my best interest to sell them, but I might want to get rid of them so I can be free of stuff as I travel. Maybe freedom from things is more valuable right now than the nostalgia of these pants. If that’s the case, I can determine a clear idea of the lowest selling point. Perhaps it’s $15. Any lower than that, and I’d feel cheated.
In Fearless Negotiating, Michael C. Donaldson calls this “Wish-Want-Walk”. The first step is wishing. To know what we want gives direction in negotiating it. Want is about knowing the market value. And decide when to walk away from a deal. The wishing, though, is the tricky part.
Meditating on our real desires can bring to the surface things we did not expect. Taking time to let these things reveal themselves helps us in our endeavors to find them. When I first started lifting weights in the gym, I tried to get big muscles. I wanted to be big, strong, and look good in a sleeveless shirt. As the cost of doing this grew, I constantly negotiated with myself.
For a while I decided that increasing amounts of chicken breast, protein shakes, pain, and injuries were worth it. Then, I felt they were not. And as I looked deeper at myself, I found that it wasn’t about the big muscles. I really wanted to fulfill a sense that I was healthy, independent, manly, and ultimately, important.
Chasing after the stuff we think we want can end in exhaustion and a still burning desire that isn’t satisfied. This is where I found myself several years ago. Every day I negotiate with myself on things that I think will satisfy me. But going deep to focus on what I really want helps me to decide whether to buy, eat, do, or say something.
Start with wishing and go deep.