Always be in integrity. That phrasing is important, because we often think of integrity as something we can possess or a manifest personality trait. That causes us to take it for granted as something that we can call upon at our convenience. But, integrity isn’t a tool to be used for leverage, and it’s not something attainable—it’s a fundamental way of being. It’s a space we can and need to inhabit if we’re going to become great negotiators.

When it comes to negotiating (and leading a good life), being in integrity is non-negotiable. Relationships don’t end when negotiations do, and we don’t make deals in vacuums. Your business relationships will last well beyond any single deal, and if you want to make a career of negotiating, you’re definitely going to make more than one deal. If you want to succeed, your reputation will matter. Living in integrity will matter. Without honesty, there is no trust, and, without trust, your relationships will fail and your reputation at the negotiating table will suffer.

Honesty and trust in relationships are outward manifestations of living in integrity. What’s more important is the internal work of integrity: being true to yourself. Frederick Douglass said, “I prefer to be true to myself, even at the hazard of incurring the ridicule of others, rather than to be false, and to incur my own abhorrence.” The wisdom in that quote is inspiring. Douglass’ commitment to integrity was so deeply rooted that the thought of acting outside of integrity incurred emotions of self-hatred.

That’s a high bar for sure, but the value you place on being yourself and living in integrity should be paramount to everything else. You’ll recall that step two discusses the necessity of doing whatever it takes to access your truth. Without integrity, that’s impossible. If we aren’t acting in ways that honor our moral compass, our truth will remain inaccessible to us, and so will authentic negotiating success.

The principles of CDE—Clarity, Detachment, and Equilibrium—dissolve without a strong connection to your inner-truth. How can you attain clarity if you aren’t in touch with your true self? How can you become detached from outcomes without being able to identify that your ego isn’t representative of your true self? If you aren’t aligned with integrity and living in it, your Equilibrium will always be out of balance because doubt and discomfort inevitably follow a denial of who we truly are. 

The positive thing is that being in integrity and being true to yourself is completely in your control. When good people find themselves out of integrity, it’s a result of their own conscious choices. It can be tough to get back on track because without integrity there’s no anchor, no compass, and no guiding principles. After a while though human nature creeps in, and, if we’re not aligned with our true self, things don’t feel right. It’s at that point when we get our agency back and have a choice to make: change course and get back to integrity, or keep moving forward, compromising our values along the way.

If you choose integrity, always fall back on your CDE—by nature, those principles will keep you in integrity. You’ll be clear about who you are and where you stand, and all other external factors will fall away.

Always being in integrity, like any aspect of Authentic Negotiating, requires a commitment to doing the hard inner-work of being true to yourself and living your values. You might feel like you already have a solid handle on this, or you might have an inkling that something is slightly off. Take my Authentic Negotiating Success Quiz to see exactly where you stand.

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