Once you’ve found the state of being that makes a habit of CDE, invites authenticity and fosters success, you can start to refine your strength as a negotiator. But how?

Create and Connect to a Powerful Context

Our context is the place that we’re coming from, internally. There’s always something within that’s motivating our decisions and behaviors. Most of us are acting upon our default context – whatever it is. It’s ever-present, whether we admit it or not. The great negotiator knows the power of their context. What we want to do is find a fundamental context that can anchor our being and keep us grounded, no matter what—a cause we can always return to.

What we must avoid is the default context. When we’re letting our subconscious, unnamed context drive us, we’re ceding a degree of control that we might not even know we have. First, we have to identify our default existing context. Then we have to do the inner work to reframe it and develop an empowering context that we own. Our context – especially at the negotiating table – is our north star, our Polaris.

For something that seems so simple, I get a lot of questions about this. Why does context matter? Isn’t reframing your context as needed just an exercise in self-manipulation? Isn’t part of authenticity being honest with ourselves and accepting our feelings? If we change those feelings and behaviors for the sake of winning a negotiation, what’s the difference between context and any other tactic?

All fair questions. Fundamentally, context isn’t about manipulating our psyche or denying our feelings –because we aren’t defined or ruled by our feelings. In actual fact, when we blindly accept our feelings, act upon them and refuse to do any critical thinking about where those feelings are coming from or what is causing them, we’re being dishonest and inauthentic with ourselves. When we refuse to confront the truth of our reality and choose to be reactionary in the moment, we’re agreeing to be directed by the superficial and setting ourselves up for failure.

Think about it like this: Google wants to buy your software. The deal is such that it could change your life – seed your next business venture well into the future or set you up for an early retirement. Your emotions run the gamut from excited to nervous to joyful to scared. Like any good businessperson, you’ve done your due diligence on similar deals Google has made in the past, you mostly know what to expect from the other side. The hard work should be done and you should feel optimistic, even confident. You don’t. Uneasiness is steering the ship.

A negotiator who doesn’t identify this as an opportunity to reframe their context and allows the default to persist is going to have a rough negotiation upcoming. How should you respond to your feelings? Will you accept your uneasiness as natural jitters and then constantly wonder why the feeling won’t leave? Or will you identify the uneasiness you’re feeling as something much deeper and ask yourself what context you’re holding that’s creating this feeling? You might be desperate, or maybe there’s something else amiss about how smoothly this all went. Being fearful of what success on this level might mean for you or feeling undeserving is natural, but you need to be able to recognize these feelings and use that understanding to change your context. That will keep you grounded in negotiations.

Being a great negotiator starts with honest and rigorous self-evaluation. The hardest part can be getting started. Take my Authentic Negotiating Success Quiz to see how close you are to becoming a great negotiator.

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