Negotiating is an all-important life skill that is missed out in business schools to personal finance blogs. These days, I’m starting to see the importance of negotiations more than I ever did. I’m also starting to see the value of power dynamics between interactions between two parties, whether be it with a woman, a friend, a potential client or with a superior in a work setting.
If you find yourself constantly chasing, putting in an effort and not feeling like you’re getting your fair share in a relationship, perhaps you’re required to re-evaluate how you approach that relationship. You may lack relationship boundaries, or are unable to establish them.
Psychological research shows that first impressions do matter. The premise in which you establish any relationship is the precedent going forward for months onwards, and even years.
For example, if you start out as the nice guy who always makes himself available to her, she’ll perceive you as that nice guy and that’s your premise for your relationship with her going forward. It’s harder to change that precedent of a relationship between you and her from there as opposed to establishing it early in the interaction.
One useful negotiation strategies that can be observed in multiple disciplines from dating to business is the art of qualification and evaluation. It’s the idea of evaluating the person your dating or company you’re interviewing for as much as they are evaluating you. This way the power dynamic is a little more balanced.
Note, you can use this either strategy as a bluff or you can invest in yourself and make it part of your reality. I recommend the latter. The key here is to get good at shit. If you’re a self-invested individual, you’ll have a lot more personal power in your negotiations.
These days, I evaluate potential projects and potential business collaborations more than ever. If a girl isn’t that interested in me, I’m not going to try to force the date. If a company doesn’t value me, I’m not going to waste my time. I’m not trying to sound cocky, however, there’s always an opportunity cost of cognition and time invested.
The first step to evaluation and qualification is to value your time. You’ll be surprised how little people actually do this.
Last week, I said no to a real estate director. He requested for a 1:1 coffee meet up to pick my brains on business and digital marketing. There’s no structure, no nothing. He was quite insistent on it and I eventually relented. Through two hours of speaking to him, I made a read that he wasn’t interested in entrepreneurship and was more comfortable sticking to his current industry. He also didn’t really understand the true value of digital marketing.
In my opinion, I didn’t learn much or gained anything from that 2 hours coffee. It’ll be much better invested in writing articles like this one.
I also had a couple of other potential collaborations on the table as well. One of them from a land development company. Their current marketing strategies are heavily reliant on cold calling and referrals. I didn’t think they’ll be interesting in digital marketing strategies as a potential avenue. Even though the initial meet up went well, I’m highly convinced that the potential collaboration isn’t going to go through.
These events happened because there wasn’t any qualification or evaluation performed by me in the first place.
I remembered a negotiation that took place a couple of months ago with a friend. He considers himself one of the top marketers in Singapore. I was pleading him to do a joint venture on MarcusNeo.Com since I was playing around with Facebook advertising. In the negotiation process, he wasn’t budging and constantly evaluated me and my business.
I wasn’t too sure if he was able to walk the talk. However, the fact that he constantly evaluated my business and the possible joint venture, that put him in a position of power. I was seemingly the one pleading for his time and services, not the other way round. That’s something extremely powerful.
Fast forward a couple of months later, I was employed by a million dollar in revenue personal finance education company. It was a really short stint. I saw myself as a leader that could help them quadruple their company’s revenue. I saw myself as being more involved in business processes and workflows. However, within a couple of weeks, the dynamic was clear. It’s the dynamic between employer and employee. I was there just to write. I had to write on command. I could not set my own schedule. I wasn’t involved in other processes. I had no independence.
I re-negotiated and came to a more equitable position, reverting back to the old model, one of a contractor/agency model, where the dynamic more level.
You see, great negotiators aren’t rocket scientists. They are just able to hold court in extremely tense situations like this: one of my favourite scenes from Margin Call, a fascinating movie on finance:
The Power Dynamic
If you asked me for advice on anything 2-3 years ago, I’m the sort of person that’ll happily chirp out advice to just about everyone. I’ll even point you to research, statistics about mostly anything from investing in the stock market to evolutionary psychology.
However, by doing that, I come off too eager. The power dynamic isn’t established correctly. There isn’t any premise to it. These days, I’m a lot more reserved. Furthermore, people don’t like to be sold to. People like to buy. I’d rather be the doctor, than the pushy salesman. You have a problem, I have a solution and you’re the one that chooses to take up that solution. I’m not going to push it in your face.
This analogy is exemplified in the luxury products industry. Their staff isn’t pushing their luxury products in your face. You’re the one pining to be in their shops to get the first X amount of limited edition of that particular product. I also tell my life coaching clients that if they are coming in and expecting to not do anything and get results, I tell them I’m not going to accept them as clients.
Tinge of Machiavelli
If you constantly feel you’re not getting a fair share of your bargain in relationships, then I offer you Machiavelli’s advice: Whosoever desires constant success must change his conduct with the times.
If you find yourself constantly trying to persuade your date that you’re the best choice compared to others, you’ll need to invert that and get her to persuade you that she’s the better choice compared to your choices. Of course, negotiation, qualification and setting a premise in itself is limiting in itself. You need to be able to walk the talk. If you’re self-invested, this becomes part of your personal values and not some phoney trick you pull out of your pocket.
Ultimately, if you’re too eager, or aren’t actively evaluating your friendships, relationships, business opportunities and how you spend your time. You’re going to find yourself as a one legged man in an ass kicking contest: from business, sales, to romantic relationships and friendships.