Whether it’s negotiating social distancing, troubleshooting childcare commitments or  ‘remote vs. workplace’ hours, we’re all having to negotiate more.  If you struggle with negotiations or are simply out of practice, then the outcome is likely to be less than helpful for all involved. 

Today’s blog is designed to help you approach any negotiation with a better chance of a helpful and constructive outcome.

Reading time: 7 minutes

Negotiation skills - the Helpful way

What negotiation means?

Any conversation that doesn’t start with “it’s my way or the highway” offers an opportunity for negotiation. It is where people come together and find the third way forward that’s most helpful for everyone or, as is sometimes the case, the least unhelpful.  

Now many people enter into negotiations focussed on what they don’t want.

Let’s say your boss or client has asked you to come into the office every day of the week and that’s not what you want.

But if you focus on what you don’t want you’re attempting to negotiate them out of what they want. A more Helpful approach is to let them know what you want and between you, you can find a third way. 

So before entering a negotiation the key is to get curious about or Sherlock what you want – regardless of whether you think the other person can provide it or not. This opens up the potential of creative solutions and even spotting an ISOP (more on those in this blog). 

Remember it’s more helpful to be curious than critical.

Negotiation is a social skill you can train and practice just like any other skill, so if you’ve not used it in a while, chances are you’re out of practice. If this is the case, check out our blog on social atrophy.

When negotiating, what should be addressed first? 

There are a couple of reasons why we often don’t invest the time in becoming clear and specific on what we want.

  1. We assume we can’t have it anyway so why bother bringing it up. This assumption may or may not be valid but unless you actually check it out, you’ve snookered yourself before you’ve even started.
  2. We feel that we haven’t got the time. This sense of urgency can trip us up and lead to negotiations taking longer and/or not getting what we want. 

By sketching a map of the key aspects that influence or affect what you want, you can explore ways of helping you achieve what you want. 

Map what influences what you are negotiating

Let’s go back to the example of your boss wanting you to come into the office every day. You feel that this is not what you want. Why? When you sit down with a pen and paper and invest some time to map what this feeling is about, you realise that there are a few key aspects involved:

Social atrophy

Having been away from the office, the thought of returning to work full time might not sit easily with you. This is especially true if you’re suffering from social atrophy (more on that in this blog) and your social stamina is less than normal and your social skills are a little rusty.


You’ve got childcare or other care commitments that have been adjusted to not having to go into the office. Changing this involves other people like a childminder, partner(s) or family member. This means more negotiations and more factors to consider.

Quality of life 

Not commuting has meant that you’ve been able to use the extra time to go for walks and get fitter. Also, because you’ve saved money on transport, you’re now able to have some luxuries like a membership to a wine club and give the kids a bit more pocket money — two things you’re reluctant to now lose. 

What’s the most important aspect?

Looking at your map, you can score each aspect on a scale of 0-10 to get a sense of which one is most important. It may surprise you that it’s the anxiety about negotiating with your childminder that has the strongest intensity or the kids’ disappointment when you reduce their pocket money. 

When you see on paper what’s most important to you (has the highest intensity of feeling), you can get curious about different ways of addressing that before you start the negotiations. For example, you propose a raise in your salary to meet that cost of the commute, you may just find that your boss or client is willing to agree to that.  

Looking after your 50% of the relationship

In our previous blog on why friendships are important for your health,  we discussed the idea of looking after your 50% in any dynamic or relationship. This also applies to negotiations.

So you are responsible for 50% and the other person is responsible for their 50%. It’s important to realise that your 50% of the dynamic has the ability to change the whole situation and its course.


  • What mindset are you bringing to the negotiations? Defensive, aggressive, despondent, assertive? 
  • What’s your expectations of how it’s going to go? What’s the ‘story’ you’re telling yourself? 
  • How are you feeling in your body? If you’re stressed, hungry and you’ve not slept well, chances are you’re not in the best state to negotiate.  

The key to being able to negotiate well is to use the top scoop of your brain as much as possible. What do we mean by “the top scoop”? It’s basically the part of our brain that allows us to analyse situations and solve complex problems. You can learn more about the 3-scoop ice cream brain in this blog.

If you enter into the negotiations thinking, it’s us and them, chances are you’re already crocodiling before anything has even been said. But if you’ve adopted a view that says, “we are all in this together”, you’re likely using your top scoop and that is much more helpful.

The ABC technique for feelings

Remember your ABC

Using your ABC for Feelings can be helpful to get you into the right frame of mind beforehand. Becoming aware that you are, for example, feeling defensive (the A in the ABC), you bring your focus to your breathing and how you feel in your body at this moment in time (the B in the ABC). This shifts your biochemistry and reconnects your top scoop so you can be more skilful in your choice of what you say and how (the C in the ABC).  

Give yourself time to get what you need

Often, when we go into negotiations, there’s a feeling of urgency. This is particularly true when we think we’re not going to get what we want. If you’re feeling this way, chances are you are crocodiling. Negotiating anything in this state is unlikely to result in a helpful outcome for all concerned. 

So often, it’s okay to ask to reschedule negotiations by a few hours or days. By looking after your state first, you will be more able to engage in the negotiation in a calmer, more constructive place. This may also give you the time to talk things through with a trusted friend. When you do this, you can see the bigger picture and spot any potential ISOPs. 

It’s ok to propose a break during a negotiation. If you sense that the other person may be crocodiling or it feels like things are going badly for either of you, taking a break can help ease the tension. Continuing along an unhelpful path could lead to the negotiations breaking down irreparably, which isn’t good for anyone. Chances are you don’t have to negotiate everything in single conversation. 

Our invitation to you today is to invest the time in mapping what’s going on for you and how that’s affecting what you want. This may take just a few minutes and a note pad but it’ll save you both time and effort in the long run as well as increasing the likelihood of getting what you want. 

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Go gently, hold steady, stay the course.
All the best, Thor