A to Z of Negotiation: Y is for You

The obvious choice here for Y was “Yes” but I think this overlooks a really important piece of the negotiation equation – You. Sometimes, the only thing standing in the way of a good negotiation is the stories that are going on in your own head.



In his book, Getting to Yes with Yourself, William Ury talks about the need to focus on the inner game of negotiation. He tells us that you can’t get to yes with your counterparts if you haven’t been able to get to yes with yourself. He quotes Theodore Roosevelt who is quoted as saying “If you could kick the person in the pants responsible for most of your trouble, you wouldn’t sit for a month”.


So what do we need to do to put ourselves out of our own way in a negotiation? There’s a few tips that can help you.


Dig down to find your “why”

Just as you would empathetically listen to a friend who has a need or a problem, take the time to listen to yourself empathetically. Don’t start by negatively judging yourself.


Move away from blame

It is all too easy to blame others for the difficult situation we find ourselves in. Taking more responsibility and focusing on what we can do to take care of our situation, regardless of the actions others do or do not take, can be a challenge but will position you well in your negotiations.


Change the frame

Most negotiations involve an element of scarcity. Something we want isn’t available easily. This scarcity can invoke fear and start neurological changes which make rational thought difficult. Reframing the way we see things can assist. Rather than fearing scarcity, seeing life as “being on your side” can help you manage your state.


Learn to focus on now

When in a negotiation, particularly a dispute, it is easy to focus on what has gone on in the past and the conflict that has arisen. Or perhaps you will move to a place where your focus is on the uncertain future. Both can raise cortisol and adrenaline which will not aid your negotiations. Learning to stay focused on the present moment will move you in the right direction.


Don’t make it personal

Others may make personal attacks in a negotiation and raise the tension. It can be easy to fall into the trap of retaliation – psychological mirroring plays a big part here. Being mindful enough to recognise what is going on and avoid unconsciously reflecting their behaviour will protect you. Ury advises we “surprise others with respect and inclusion even if they are difficult”.


Be the change

You may feel concerned where there are limited resources that you need to protect what you have. This can see the negotiation falling in to the win-lose game. Strategically starting the game by giving something away can see the rules change.


As always, the issues discussed here are more complex than can be addressed in a short article. If you rely on negotiation in your business and want to develop your skills, please contact us to discuss how we can help.

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