How To Manage Yourself And Negotiate Effectively

By Dan Schawbel

When people think about negotiation, they immediately think of having to influence someone else but Erica Ariel Fox says you have to manage yourself first. Erica is the New York Times Bestselling author of Winning From Within: A Breakthrough Method for Leading, Living, and Lasting Change. She teaches negotiation at Harvard Law School, where she began teaching in 1996. A highly sought-after advisor, Erica works with senior leaders around the world with her partners at Mobius Executive Leadership, and she’s also a Senior Advisor to McKinsey Leadership Development. In this brief interview, she talks about why you need to learn how to negotiate with yourself, the four primary negotiators and how to best manage them and more.

Dan Schawbel: What types of negotiations do we have with ourselves at work?

Erica Ariel Fox: You negotiate with yourself every time you’re of two minds about what to do. Should I stay late and please my boss, or get home in time for Date Night? Bend the rules a little like everyone else, or uphold higher ethical standards than my teammates? Ask why I got a 3 on my performance review when I expected a 4 or 5, or not rock the boat? The inner negotiation goes on all day at work: should I say yes, no, or stall for time? Speak my mind or hold my tongue? When you start looking for it, you’ll notice right away how often you negotiate with yourself before deciding what to do. That’s why learning to negotiate effectively with yourself is one of the most important skills you can build for your job, and in your home life, too.

Dan: Why is there a gap between what we say we’re going to do and actually do when we talk to our co-workers and/or manager?

EAF: Everyone knows the experience of going into a conversation intending to do one thing, and then ending up handling the discussion totally differently. You want to encourage your colleague about his report, but once you begin talking with him about it, you end up giving a blunt critique. You promise yourself you’ll speak up at the company “Town Hall” meeting, but when the time comes, you sit there silently. I call this common phenomenon The Performance Gap, the difference between what you intend to do in ideal circumstances, and what you actually do in real life. This happens in part because people underestimate the role of the negotiation within. They prepare what they want to say, but don’t anticipate the inner conflict that happens when the moment of truth arrives. If you understand your primary inner negotiators, then you know about the inner tug-of-war and how it works. Now you can prepare to handle the negotiation within successfully, and close the Performance Gap that pops up when you meet with other people.

Dan: Can you name the four primary negotiators and how to best manage them?

EAF: Everyone has different sides of themselves. I focus on a few primary inner negotiators that I call The Big Four. In working with thousands of professionals over nearly 20 years, all across the world, I find these same four time and again to hold the key that unlocks someone’s full potential.

The Big Four are:

  • Your Dreamer, or inner CEO. This part of you operates on intuition, and imagines big possibilities for the future.
  • Your Thinker, or inner CFO. This part uses facts and logic to make rational assessments, to evaluate options and manage risk.
  • Your Lover, or inner VP of HR. This part of you runs on emotion, values relationships, and excels at communicating with other people.
  • Your Warrior, or inner COO. This part of you thrives on action, wanting to get things done, tell the hard truth, and take a firm stand for your values.

The way to manage the Big Four well is to appreciate that you have all four inside of you. You might not use them all the same amount. You might even dislike some of them.  But you do have all of the Big Four as negotiators on your inner team. People often ask me, “am I a Warrior?” or “am I a Dreamer?” This isn’t the right question. You have all of The Big Four as potential inside you right now, today. The right question is how are you using them, and how might you experiment to use them differently, in order to get better results at work and at home?

Dan: Which negotiator should you use when you’re trying to get a raise or promotion?

EAF: Trying to get a raise or promotion is a transaction where you care about the results, and also an exchange where the relationship matters. In those cases, you want to draw on all of The Big Four at the right time, for the right reasons.

Use your Dreamer to paint a picture of your development at the company over time, and to tell your vision for how moving to the next level will enable you to contribute even more.

Let your Thinker bring up comparisons that work in your favor, like what people get paid at other companies for positions like yours, or office precedent for how long people work there and then get a promotion. Your Thinker can point to benchmarks that support your case.

The Lover is important in these discussions, too, because at the end of the day, this will be an agreement between people. Facts alone don’t persuade someone to promote you. They need to care about you and want you to succeed. So make a personal connection, even briefly, before launching into your list of reasons for getting a raise.

Finally, use your Warrior to hold your ground. If at first you get a “no, sorry, not now,” that doesn’t mean you flee for the door.  Stick with the conversations a little bit, using your Warrior’s persistence to learn about why they’re saying no. Then you can talk about timelines when something might become possible down the road. Your Warrior gives you the courage and the conviction to hang in there.

Dan: What would you suggest to an employee who is having a difficult time managing a relationship with a co-worker?

EAF: It’s easy to point fingers, and to blame other people. The tricky thing is that very often when you’re having a tough time with someone, it tells you something about yourself, too. Let’s say you’re struggling to work with Bella, or with Jim. You find them difficult. It helps to step back and picture Bella having lunch with a friend, or Jim out with a co-worker playing squash. When they sit down to chat, what do you imagine happens when Bella or Jim start talking about you? What could they say to their friend to explain why it’s so tough for them to work with you? Of course you’re only guessing at what might bother them about you. But asking this kind of question provides some insight into the way you make it tough, too.

It’s not just you, don’t get me wrong. Bella and Jim likely are doing things that don’t work for you. My advice, though, is to assume that both sides of the equation are leading to the breakdown, not just them. Then when you go talk about it, you’re more open. You want to hear what you’re doing that’s annoying to them, as well as tell them what isn’t working for you.  This is much more productive than simply telling other people how they should change to make your life easier! While tempting, that approach won’t work as well as the one above.

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