Negotiating with OurseLF

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Negotiation is everywhere in our lives. We are littered with them at home and work — each playing a role in tweaking our direction on the journey that we call life. But the most formidable negotiation is neither of the above, it’s the one that we have with ourselves. It determines the quality of our lives, moreover, the impact of our actions.

Having the ability to negotiate in a boardroom meeting with a potential client over a million-dollar deal; with the kids, as they try to stay up past their bedtime or in the case of dire, heated circumstances, with a money heist, is a skill that is paramount to helping us navigate through our daily lives. But, more fundamentally learning to negotiate with oneself aka self-negotiation, is a key to a more clear-minded, internal well-being. (Which have the added profound effects on the rest of our lives.)

Alison Wood Brooks authored an insightful article, Emotion and the Art of Negotiation, on how emotion can affect the outcomes of negotiations and the negotiators themselves. She explains how anxiety, anger, disappointment, regret, happiness and excitement all affect the results of a negotiation. I believe the points she makes here hold when considering self-negotiation. Her research on the influences of anxiety shows that ‘feeling or looking anxious results in suboptimal negotiation outcomes.’ ‘People experiencing anxiety made weaker first offers, responded more quickly to each move the counterpart made and were more likely to exit.’ When looking through the lens of self negotiation, anxiety will also influence the outcome of whether or not to eat that Krispy Kreme doughnut while you are on a diet!

Her comments on the emotion of anger, I believe holds in the same light, ‘Bringing anger to a negotiation is like throwing a bomb into the process.’ The internal turmoil that we must-have when angry at oneself is likely to cause a chain reaction of bad decisions that can spoil relationships, cloud our minds, resulting in us lashing out on ourselves, furthering the cycle of anger. It’s a no-win situation.

In Negotiating with Myself, a more complex discussion is evident. Johanna Thoma’s article on the concept of temporal-selves, the idea that there are temporary versions, is fascinating in understanding how we look at rationalising with ourselves.

The past self who is considering the future self and the future self who is considering the past self. Each is living in our own ‘time-slice’. Trying to make decisions on their current situation as if they are two different people. Here is where our problem arises, thinking about ourselves as separate beings result in us, she suggests, owing judgment to each one — similarly to how you feel you owe it to a friend to return a favour. We have to consider the perspective of our time-sliced selves, a version that does not yet exist and the one that has existed. To visualise their perspectives to rationalise more meticulously with oneself helps to understand the decision-making process that we went through to choose a particular course of action.

In the working paper Negotiating Relationally: The Dynamics of the Relational Self In Negotiations. The thought that relational capital (mutual liking, knowledge, trust, and commitment to continuing the relationship) exceeding economic capital (monetary value) is a central goal for the negotiators, is a concept that has applications in self negotiation. Our need to have close ties to our inner negotiators is essential for our values to align, to exercise a level of positive collaboration and cooperation. There’s no need to have a heated self negotiation over staying up for one more episode of a tv-series, the cooperation of giving concessions in the next day or week to extract some value now, is an internal dynamic we should strive for.

“We’ve met the enemy, and it is us.”

As you can see, negotiating with oneself is a tall order. The power of having to deal with what is an internal lawyer can weigh even the best of us down. Creating a level of self-awareness is a useful tool to help mitigate the seismic shocks that we sustain from the internal courtroom battles.

As mentioned in Emotion and the Art of Negotiation, we go through several emotions when negotiating with ourself. The inability to recognise what is internally causing these problems is what leads to our demise.

Creating awareness of one’s strengths, weaknesses, insecurities, fears, and internal triggers, regarding what you are negotiating over is a positive step in the right direction to being able to respond differently. “Why do I feel this way when I want to do x?” is a question I find myself asking. Ultimately this means having an open, honest dialogue with ourselves, even at the risk of not liking what we discover.

Once awareness has been built, the next trick is to construct non-negotiable policies into our lives. The solution to self-negotiating is as much about understanding one’s self as it is removing negotiation from the equation entirely.

Our lives are in choice excess; to cook or not to cook, what to eat, to stay in or eat out — the abundance of choice results in having to self negotiate. We need a set of principles to live by, things that when internal conflict arises, we have a set play of how to react and deal with them, allowing us to run on autopilot. The hardest part is writing down those principles, whether mentally or physically, to remember them in moments of internal weakness.

The first negotiation we undertake each day is in waking up, a decision in itself loaded with complications. But with the right awareness and principles to live by, the most formidable negotiation of your life, the one that happens on the internal battlefield, will be that little bit easier.

Do you have any tips for Self-Negotiation? Let me know in the comments or drop me a message on any of the following social networks. I would love to hear from you! — Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, TikTok, Youtube.