How to Negotiate With Yourself

21 December 2012, by A. Cedilla

Negotiating starts when two parties, each with their own interests and goals, start talking.

You and your team, looking over at the other side of the table to see the Other Guys, each side with its own agenda, trying to hammer out an agreement or reach a point of compromise. You gives, you gets, dig?

Today we’re taking a different approach in that we’ll talk about how we negotiate with ourselves.

It’s just a part of how we’re wired: there must have been many occasions where you were of two minds about a particular issue — most probably when trying to act decisively, yes?

You start off by making a list of pros and cons, assigning certain weights to certain factors, maybe talking it out with a few trusted friends. Usually, you get things done on time, but when it’s something that makes up keep putting it off, how do you motivate yourself?

In a classic negotiation, both parties start off with three things:

  • A clear vision of what they want – when you know what you can’t accept, what you must have, and what you are prepared to do, it gives you a firm ground on which to make your presentation and arguments.
  • A clear picture of the situation – you need assess whether these things on your list are available, what the atmosphere is in the place of discussion, and the attitudes of the people involved so you can adjust your approach to fit.
  • A clear goal to resolve for the day – Target the middle ground where you can meet.

Know your enemy — on both sides of the table. It’s not just the other team you have to consider: how do you sabotage yourself when it comes to being under pressure, or acting in delicate or prolonged negotiations, and how do you avoid doing it?

How do you fall most often when it comes to seeing a difficult course of action to its conclusion?

You can be your own worst enemy in this way: Even in knowing all our sore spots and weak areas, we can still undermine and sell ourselves short.

I mean, we can break deals with ourselves everyday, whittling our strength down to sand with each deal we keep putting off or fail to keep.

Any strong position to negotiate starts with the following:

  • Know your worth. Know what you want coming in and forgetting out of the negotiation room (or the discussion, the bargaining process, whatever.)
  • Know what you are willing to give in exchange without unnecessary pain. A negotiation always has a goal in mind. Always.

Lets go to negotiating with other people. In the usual work setting, negotiation is a heavy thing when it comes to the job, right? Getting the job entails:

  • Determining your market value so you can set a ballpark-figure for someone with your skills and your experience.
  • Finding out the expected level of responsibility and people-management skills for the position you’re aiming for.
  • Knowing what you bring to the table and presenting that to your advantage.
  • Determining what are the other party is prepared to offer.

But then when the job is secure, we tend to forget that negotiation is the process of figuring out the best returns on your investment, for all parties concerned.

Fear can push us to say yes to everything because we don’t want to be replaced for a cheaper model, but we are human beings first, and while the employee may be overworked and (semi) secure in his job, inside, calluses develop over time.

When you just take whatever is dished out to you, inside you can develop feelings of dis-empowerment. You feel that you’re left with little choice, and let me tell you, that can be even more wearing on the psyche than overtime.

Coming into negotiation, it’s vital to know your bottom line — your essentials, your sweet point, what would make the venture worth it, for YOU — then find a way to flip it around and making it a WE-situation, to find the way to identify what would make the venture worth it for US. The best scenario: all the concerned partners walk away satisfied.

  • Look for long-term gains over short-term pains.

Try to sit on the other side of the negotiating table: when you look at things from their side, you get a deeper understanding of what they need, and what useful thing you have to offer them

Negotiations are navigating a relationship with another person or a group of persons, relationship being the key word, and in a relationship– breaking news, buddy, it’s not all about you, it’s about them too, and it’s what you make together.

You don’t come to a meeting of the minds, you can disengage and break it off if you’re not satisfied. Think of the effort and work invested though, all down the drain.

And when it comes to you, you personally, things can get a lot rockier. You don’t uphold yourself to what you said you’d do. You botch the commitment. You let yourself slack off, and get away with it.

You reason that ” it can wait, it won’t hurt, nobody would know, no one will get hurt, I can always catch up later…it’s not that important anyway.”

Again, a negotiation always has a goal in mind. Always. When you let your emotions get the best of you, they get their goals met. You don’t rock the boat, you don’t feel uncomfortable.

This is why clarity is so important. You know what you need, want and require, you just have a better time of setting things up to go after that. Other stuff gets in the way.

Barriers to specificity and clarity:

  • You are not sure of what you want, or you don’t know what you want. In this case, what you do gets you nothing you honestly value.
  • You get tangled in the small details and miss the bigger picture. It’s like saving pennies and squandering dollars.
  • Emotionally, the thought of making changes leaves you feeling uncomfortable and threatened.

In communication:

  • You have different concepts of the same idea
  • You find it difficult to express yourself clearly and concisely.
  • You interpersonal skills can use some more work.


Dealbreakers, anyone?
Negotiating means establishing a connection with another party first — getting to know each others’ intentions (“How serious are you about doing this?” ) then settling down to deal with the nitty-gritty. Other things comes into play, like:

  • How much leeway do you have to move
  • what’s your timeline? What’s theirs?
  • How long do you intend this relationship to last?

In your relationship with yourself, what are the lines you would never cross? What are your hard limits? How much are you willing to let slide before you decide to take charge yourself?

It’s a balancing act. You try to keep going with doing what you can without breaking yourself on one hand, and on the other you keep pushing yourself just that little bit more to reach your goals, to be just that little bit bigger than you were before.

Say you intend to make solid changes in your life and your business next year. Aside from the plans that you have to act on, you also have to assess yourself as the prime mover of those plans. You can be your own worst enemy, and your greatest resource, so why not make the effort to get the best deal out of it?

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