Negotiating Life?

It crossed my mind this morning that we are constantly negotiating our lives.

A significant proportion of my working life involved negotiations, and so there were the expected courses/seminars on negotiation strategies, techniques etc., and I think I became pretty good at it!

My negotiating would have started as a childย  but, of course, in a very simplistic way. I would make a demandย  (want to play with the best china; stay out later etc) and, when denied, would stamp around and sulk! Mum would win!

Later, there would have been a semblance of a strategy:

“Can I stay out until 10:00pm?”

“No you can’t. 8:00 is your time to be in.”

“Oh Mum!” (Whining)

“You can stop that noise. 8:00”

“Well I’ll be at Patrick’s house.”

” Oh well…………. 8:30 and no later.”

” How about 9:30pm?”


“But his Mom really likes me and wants me to stay as long as possible.”

“Okay……… 9:00 and no later!”

Once we get into school and the age of relationships, there is more negotiating done which is totally self-serving. I would have certain desires/expectations which may be different from yours and so a negotiation takes place… although we never see it as such. An argument may well be seen as an insensitive negotiation!

I am negotiating with Ray all the time! Ray does “this” and he gets “that”. If “that” is not too attractive, then he will be unresponsive until such time as the quality of “that” is increased! A negotiation has just taken place!

Even me writing this Post is a subtle negotiation! I am writing in the hope that you will sacrifice a small portion of your time to read it. If my Likes and Comments stats have a pattern of falling, then I am clearly not negotiating very well. Making life choices in general can be construed as negotiation.

Volunteering in a particular area is a negotiation in that I have my need, and must convince the organization that it compliments their need. They may want 20 hours a week spread over 3 days, while I can only offer 2 days. They may want a schedule commitment 6 weeks ahead, while I can only commit to 4 weeks ahead. If simply volunteering can involve some negotiation, just imagine what is involved in a job hunting exercise.

Why this subject right now? Because I often get involved in literary “skirmishes” and to conclude these events satisfactorily involves standardย  negotiating skills. In their most basic form, and as soon as I sense a “skirmish” is imminent:

Step 1 – Determine my position. Do I have the power to dictate? Usually the answer is a resounding “No!”

Step 2 – What are my strengths? Perhaps age and relative life experience! (not very convincing so move to Step 3 asap!)

Step 3 – Improve position of power my researching “opponent”. All flaws and weaknesses documented.

Step 4 – Decide what would be my ideal outcome, and also establish a bottom line! i.e. I now have the acceptable high/low limits of the negotiation.

Step 5 – Let battle commence!

Step 6 – Continually review and evaluate my position of strength, and secure if necessary by adding confusing data into the “skirmish”. Introduce questions of debatable relevance and answer questions using ambiguous, or simply puzzling, statements. Never under-estimate the value of confusion!

Note: The primary goal of any negotiation is to achieve the highest limit outcome (ref Step 4) and a WIN/WIN conclusion, however, under extreme circumstances, it may be necessary to trade off a little!

Step 7 – If circumstances dictate a rather unsatisfactory conclusion (plan it better next time), then I will diplomatically concede, compliment the other party, and walk away with my character intact!

Doesn’t that pretty much reflect life. Now what we should all do is recognize that, what some people see as simply choices, are in fact negotiations and being aware of that should make you think “Yes…… I must prepare in advance of making choices in the future! What am I trying to achieve? What are the potential problems? What do I need to do to prepare for the best possible outcome? What will I settle for as a compromise?”

Food for thought!

24 thoughts on “Negotiating Life?

  1. That is a lot of thinking! I’m exhausted by all of the negotiations in my life at the moment, the internal and the external. Even finding peace in my hobbies is a skirmish in my head because each have specific outcomes I wish to achieve. Do I go out and take photos? edit photos? finish my painting or finish reading that book on my bedside table? Perhaps I’ll just curl up with the fur kids and watch a movie, a bit of escapism is sounding pretty enticing at the moment.

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    • Never under estimate the value of an escape periodically. As for all your interests? Go through the questions “What are my goals?”; “What is necessary to achieve them?” “What time frame is realistic?” All other things being equal, you might want to consider finishing of what you have started before taking on new ventures, so edit your existing photos; finish your painting, and finish the book on your bedside table. Once “loose ends” are tied up, you can refer to your goals and perhaps you should not start another book; perhaps you should not start another painting; perhaps you should take some photos. Priorities and the discipline to work towards them without getting sidetracked, and you can be very productive and enjoy the rewards that go with it! All the best! ๐Ÿ™‚

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  2. Hey Colin. I have stopped “Liking” even though I like your posts simply because it seems kind of weird to have my angel Lexi’s pic show up as having liked. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ At least for WordPress sites I have found the work-around for what shows when I comment. Please know I am still reading and enjoying your posts, even if you don’t “see” much of me. ~Amy

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  3. Life is definitely full of all kinds of negotiations. Good points in your post. In raising teens, the thinking about what kind of compromises can be made happens a lot!
    Looks like you have a detailed 7 step plan. I would guess that you make a worthy opponent in “skirmishes”. I hope your opponents know what they are going up against when they take you on.

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  4. As I’ve gotten older I’ve gotten better at this. Sometimes something isn’t worth it and it’s more valuable to “give” someone that win to negotiate another. It all happens at a somewhat subconscious level all the time.

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    • Exactly! I am not suggesting we should approach everything with a non-negotiable goal and, as you note, sometimes it is beneficial to give! I am reminded of a question asked of us “new volunteers” when being trained for working in a Toronto Hospital’s Crisis Intervention Unit …. “What are going to get out of this?” The answer “Nothing, I just want to volunteer” was not a good answer, because we never do something for nothing! It’s just that we don’t think about it from that perspective. As somebody once said “The giver always gets!” It could be as simple as the satisfaction of helping others; seeing totally different perspectives; a greater appreciation of one’s own life; perhaps even an indirect reward somewhere in the future….. but there is always something. The Hospital’s perspective was simply that we needed to understand those human dynamics if we are going to intervene in somebody’s life issues.
      As you correctly point out, it is all generally done on an intuitive and subconscious level but, if you could see it as negotiation and plan accordingly, it could be much more effective and, as in any professional negotiation, a WIN/WIN is the desired outcome ๐Ÿ™‚

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