Many people I talk with see negotiation as a cold, ruthless exercise that prioritizes one person’s interests over another’s. Right now, you might be thinking the same way.
While negotiating in the past, you may have found yourself powerless to the whims of others, giving away your own power too easily—especially if you’re a people-pleaser motivated by relationships. For you, bargaining feels uncomfortable and aggressive.
But consider these words: cold, ruthless, powerless, aggressive. They’re negative, bleak, and scary. And few among us voluntarily engage in something we perceive so unfavorably. The act of negotiating feels aggressive and conflict-ridden. Who wants that?
That’s why most people don’t like negotiating. Not only do they see it as a negative human interaction, but they’re also convinced they aren’t good at it. So, they allow their perceptions to become their limitations. They avoid bargaining altogether.
What few realize is that we negotiate all day, every day. Even more surprising is that many of those negotiations are with ourselves.
Think about your own self-talk about major decisions in your life. Will you buy that house? Should you take that job? Is getting that surgery the right decision?
When you think about these things, you weigh the pros and cons of each option and yes, you negotiate the outcome you desire most.
And this happens with our day-to-day decisions, too. What will you wear? Where will you grab lunch? Should you put off a big purchase? These are all negotiations we have with ourselves every day.
These examples bring up an important question. What is negotiation, really? The truth is that bargaining, whether unconscious or conscious, is part of being human.
Try as we might, there’s no avoiding negotiations with family, friends, coworkers, and society in our daily lives. So when you negotiate, will you choose to interact consciously or unconsciously?
What happens when you negotiate unconsciously?
Negotiating unconsciously can also be thought of as bargaining without intention. And anything worth doing well is worth doing with intention.
Requiring yourself to always act with intention can be overwhelming and paralyzing. But bargaining is certainly the time to act with purpose. If you go into a negotiation with either no intention or the wrong intention, don’t be surprised when you don’t achieve what you set out to do.
Since this aimless approach doesn’t need much up-front planning, it seems easier in the short term. But the drawbacks of unconscious negotiation are sure to leave lingering adverse effects.
Going into a negotiation unconsciously is never a good idea. When you bargain without intention, you may overlook what's most important to you.
As a result, you may fail to treat your counterpart with the respect they deserve, come to the table with a bad attitude, or even fail to achieve your goal. The result is a shoddy execution that usually hurts people’s feelings, engenders resentment, and cultivates defensiveness. Why? Because negotiating without intention leaves curiosity, self-awareness, and perspective at the door.
Unconscious negotiation prevents you from truly connecting with your counterpart. It doesn’t require emotional intelligence, leaving you blind to critical cues that will lead to a successful exchange.
In the end, achieving your goal is inconsequential, because the process damages relationships and leaves you and your counterparts feeling unseen, empty, angry, and out of balance.
What happens when you negotiate consciously?
Fortunately, there’s another way to achieve your goal. Conscious negotiation brings the best parts of your mind and spirit to bargaining, so your conversations are open, inclusive, honest, and connected.
Our mind can be our greatest enemy or our most valuable asset. Conscious negotiation harnesses the power of your emotional intelligence and intellectual brain to present your transparent, intuitive self when bargaining.
Your authenticity, optimism, and empathy shine through your conversations with this approach. This guides you to an outcome that leaves all involved feeling heard, fulfilled, and valued.
As a result, conscious negotiations strengthen relationships. Taking the time to negotiate with intention tells your counterparts that you’re open-minded, forward-thinking, and that you value connection. This means you can achieve your goals and strengthen your relationships rather than tearing them down.
Negotiating this way also leaves you feeling more satisfied. Why? Because you’re getting more of what you need and want in life. And you don’t have to step on any toes to get there.
The best negotiations are intentional acts that ignore the mental, emotional, and societal barriers holding us back from bringing our most authentic, whole selves to the conversation. When you put your whole self into a negotiation both parties feel heard and valued.
You can find greater meaning in your life and work through conscious negotiation but getting there isn’t as easy as reading this article. Most people are unaware that bargaining can be a deliberate, conscious practice. But keep moving forward and you’ll learn how to negotiate consciously and effectively.
ReImagine what’s possible. What if you could negotiate consciously and comfortably by connecting with yourself? What if the result was a you that was growing, thriving, and discovering your own path to wisdom? You can achieve this result, but not without deliberately bringing yourself.