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Powerful Negotiation: The Daily Negotiator Mindset

You’ve already heard of the classic negotiation strategies, like having a BATNA (best-alternative to a negotiated agreement), or using the good cop/bad cop tactic, so now what?

Now is the time to rethink your attitude to negotiation in general. When I ask most executives about negotiating, most come back with stories of triumphant salary discussions and closing big deals. Not Dawn M. Pagano, Vice President, and Chief Operating Officer of the Employer Account Group, at Medco Health Solutions, Inc. She believes that negotiation occurs anytime we are influencing others, whether sharing ideas or in a meeting.

Dawn is making a critical distinction between framing negotiation as high-profile, high-stakes situations and framing it as anytime we are seeking agreement with another individual. With this latter way of thinking, negotiation includes everything from agreeing with the family where to take this year’s vacation to setting expectations with your newly formed team about how they will work together to reach your targets.

Why is this daily negotiator mindset powerful?
I could list a number of reasons, but let me boil it down to three critical ones.

First, knowing you negotiate on a daily basis gives you a great wealth of data to help you understand your negotiating strengths, challenges, and style. Look for patterns in your past negotiations and seek feedback from those around you. When do they notice you at your best? At your weakest?

Second, when you realize that you negotiate every day, facing the higher-profile, higher-stakes negotiation situation becomes less scary. You can inherently trust yourself and your negotiation skills more and will likely be less plagued by a case of the nerves. The more calm and collected you appear, the more power and leverage you will have.

Third, the daily negotiator mindset gives us the opportunity to hone our skills in a safer, lower stakes environment so that by the time we reach those critical negotiation scenarios, we will be well prepared. If you know you need to get better at talking money, start practicing with the estimate for your kitchen remodel at home. If you know that you often don’t advocate for what you need and then suffer the consequences, practice taking a stand by setting some boundaries with that coworker of yours who wants all your time all the time.

The value of this daily practice cannot be underestimated. One client I worked with recently frequently went to working lunches with her boss. Let’s call her Claire, because that’s not her name. Whenever Claire’s boss asked her where to go, she never voiced much of an opinion. While she was trying to be flexible and wasn’t too picky when it came to food, she came across as ambivalent. Worse, despite her stellar track record at her firm, her lunchtime accommodation habit had her boss questioning Claire. (“Was she a yay sayer when it came to client requests, as well?” wondered her boss.)

Beyond reminding us just how small, momentary interactions in and out of the workplace often make lasting impressions on others, this example illustrates the power of small changes as well. By simply stating a preference around lunch, Claire started to come across as more confident and convincing to her boss. Moreover, this daily advocacy for her needs served her exceptionally well when she needed to negotiate more important resources such as salary and headcount.

What are the small changes you can make to negotiate more successfully on a daily basis? What is your equivalent of saying you want sushi for lunch? Write down 2-3 things that you can start doing to practice negotiating for your needs and put at least one of them into practice this week!

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