My heart broke as I watched majestic Notre Dame engulfed in flames – like a scene from a bad movie – surreal. So much history, and sacrifice – a testimony to human spirit, ingenuity and resilience. Such a loss. It made me contemplate how fragile life can be. And how about you? Are you living your life fully? On purpose? And with purpose? Are you truly taking control and negotiating every aspect of your life?
It’s not the first time I’ve been pushed to ponder this precious gift we’ve been given and ask myself: What am I doing with my life? Does it matter? Do I matter? Is there more I could or should be doing? When my dad died at only 52 years old it turned my world upside down. When my infant daughter got diagnosed with a serious heart defect, we spent three months in critical care fighting for her life every day. When my son’s car flipped off an embankment, the thought of what ‘could have been’ nearly paralyzed me. Sometimes I wonder at how little control we seem to have over so many things in our lives. 9-11 rocked our world & sense of security. The powerful whims of nature take our breath away. What close calls have you had? What epiphanies made you take pause and consider how you’re living your life?
Some say we’re now living in an era of the best of times and worst of times. We enjoy technological advances that would have been unthinkable not long ago.
The cheapest cell phone holds more access to information than John F. Kennedy had available as President of the United States. Think of our pioneers, with no heat, hydro, phones, plumbing, or running water – all things we take for granted. They had to log their land, build their homes, build hearths for cooking food they had to plant, harvest and process by hand. I confess they were hardier stock than me. Heck, I get infuriated when my Internet runs slow.
We have such potential at our fingertips. And yet, depression, anxiety and suicide rates are at an all-time high – across ages and cultures. We have more communication tools and yet less connection. We have more resources and yet we feel more helpless – like me, sitting back watching Notre Dame consumed.
So what do we do? How do we take control of our lives when we have so little control over so much of what happens around us? Maybe we can’t control what happens. But do you know what? We can control our thoughts. We can control how we react to what happens. We can control how we choose to negotiate our life. And make no mistake. It is a choice. All of life is a negotiation. Whether it’s negotiating with your partner, kids, employees, boss or even yourself. It just may be the single most important skill you ever learn. I’ve been an attorney for 30 years, negotiating high stakes deals in intense environments, and I’ve seen firsthand the costs when people don’t negotiate their own life on their terms.
I want to introduce you to a secret weapon: the ability to negotiate your life.
The first myth to overcome is the belief that negotiation is all about the bark and bite. Not true. Assertiveness is only one element of bargaining – and not necessarily even the most important one. What really makes and marks a great negotiator is the ability to bring Rapport-building, Empathy, Flexibility, Intuition and Trustworthiness to the table. These are usually considered ‘soft skills’ or ‘feminine traits’. So, for the women out there, the good news is that you already use these skills in a myriad of ways every day – you just never thought of it as negotiating. For men, these are skills you have; you just need to start using them with intention to get what you need; stop seeing them as signs of weakness. Bring these skills to the forefront and it will change everything. For a quick cheat-sheet to remember the key negotiation skills, use the acronym: A.R.E. F.I.T. Just think: You ARE FIT to be a great negotiator.
It’s easier than you’d think to learn how to incorporate those key elements to elevate your influence, to get what you need and want, to improve your personal and professional relationships, to be heard, to get more money, get more respect at home and work, and to make a difference in the world. (1) The starting point to incorporating this secret weapon into negotiating your life is getting more intentional about negotiating with yourself. This is arguably the most important negotiation you’ll need to master. Choose your mindset. Choose how you show up – in every environment – in every discussion. Know your why – consider your true, deeper motivation before every exchange.
(2) Once you’ve mastered (or at least factor in) negotiating with yourself, then bring that level of intention to your other relationships. Balance rapport-building, empathy, flexibility, intuition and trust with assertiveness when you’re negotiating your relationship with your kids, your relationship with your partner, negotiating a great sex life, or negotiating your salary and position. (3) Incorporate the 5 W’s we discussed in my earlier blog series. Consider who you’re negotiating with, and how that changes your approach; what you’re really negotiating about, both on the surface and the deeper issue(s) at hand; where is the ideal place to conduct this particular discussion; when is the ideal time to approach this dialogue; and what’s my why and the other party’s why coming in to this negotiation? (4) Use questions effectively and with forethought, choosing what type of questions would best elicit the response you want in a given exchange i.e. open, closed, confirming or hypothetical. (5) And always listen actively. Astute negotiators don’t try to overpower by talking over the other party. Instead, listen and learn. Use it to build rapport and trust, employ empathy, and come up with better solutions. You can apply these principles in every area of your life, every day. You can become more persuasive and more effective.
Think of yourself as your own Notre Dame. Don’t sit back and watch, out of body, as your spire burns out of control, destroying everything in its path. Get present. Take control. Guard your majestic tower. Tap into your ‘feminine’ power skillset. Choose to negotiate your life to get what you want from the boardroom to the bedroom and in between.