We’ve been over how to cut through our default context and know the inner work required to reframe and create an empowering context that we own. The next step is examining how great negotiators create contexts that lead to success. 

Let’s continue for now with the Google software purchase example. You’ve created software that Google wants to purchase and have set a meeting to discuss terms. The number you have in mind feels out of reach, but you’ve never dealt with a company as massive as Google before.

Your default context for this exercise becomes desperation. You’re thinking, “I need to sell this software.” How many successful outcomes can that context yield? One. You sell the software and you’ve had a successful negotiation. But have you? How badly did your desperate context force you to compromise what was probably a fair ask on your part? Did you make concessions you otherwise wouldn’t have if you had approached the negotiation with a different, more powerful context? See, success, even at a conceptual level, becomes uncertain when we haven’t taken the time to properly craft our context.

The only thing worse than no deal is a bad deal. Your “I need to sell this” imperative didn’t let you walk away. It made you completely unable to detach from the outcome because you had inextricably entangled your definition of success with the outcome. Your negotiation was DOA. And what might have been an otherwise constructive meeting despite no sale being made – should that end up being the case – has now been reduced to failure, cut and dry.

What would have been a more empowering context in this situation? What if you went into this negotiation with “learning” as your context? “I want to learn as much as possible from this meeting so that, deal or not, I have experience to call upon for the next time I’m in this position.” That’s an empowered context, rooted in authenticity. It’s realistic and honest and creates a situation that is perfect for CDE. You’re clear about what you want at the base level, you’re able to detach from the outcomes because if you’re engaged with the negotiation and attentive to what you’re learning, success is guaranteed, and you’ve grounded yourself in a way that preserves your equilibrium.

Once losing is off the table and we change how we define success, we can remain clear in our objectives and avoid making bad deals.

When we dig deep enough, we can uncover any number of powerful, constructive contexts to hold. You could have approached this meeting with Google with no expectation of making the sale then and there. Your context could have been mutual respect and dignity. Google is a huge company and you’re an upstart; finding a place where the two organizations can relate at the same level and reconvening on more even ground is a win. You could have chosen a context that said, “I want to establish a relationship.” You know these deals rarely get ironed out the first time around. Developing a collaborative relationship with the people at Google is much more productive than a desperate do-or-die context that puts undue pressure on all parties and sets you up to fail. Holding contexts that come from a positive, constructive place will always produce better results.

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.