The two kinds of negotiators

Tell me if you have encountered one of these:

When I was working with a hard hitting real estate company I met my opposite, a win/lose negotiator. Abrupt, a bit rude and insanely high maintenance, her name was Wilma and she was simply monstrous to deal with. Opposing brokers always felt like she pushed the other side too hard, earning her the nickname of “Warhammer.” She would push and push and push until finally the other side would say, “uncle!” Want to be on the other side of her? I don’t think so.

To be honest, I used to judge her, until I realized that she was a master of a different style of negotiating.

Here is what I mean: I tend to be a win/win negotiator. I want both sides to win, and I want us to come to a fair price. When I realized that Wilma was that the win/lose negotiation in terms of style and not character, that made dealing with her a lot easy. She would push until someone said, “no.” She had to feel like she won something in a negotiation, otherwise she would keep asking for things, things that she didn’t even use or need!

What I found was that saying “no” to Wilma early and often didn’t make her search for a different marketer, it made her appreciate the one she had. See, with her type, she constantly needed to feel like she was winning, so I usually told her what she wanted was impossible. That got her attention. She realized, “oh wait, I have found my boundary,” and we almost always found a point of mutual agreement.

Compare that to another broker, Dan, who always had an extremely affable position. When he needed a big project quickly, I would just ask questions and work with openness and ease, and say what was was possible with a lot more flexibility than with Wilma.

The big lesson between these two styles? Match your partner’s style. If you encounter a win/win negotiator, be easy to deal with and show you are on both of your sides. If you encounter a win/lose negotiator, don’t give up any ground and push back on them hard until you see that they are willing to bend.

It’s simple, but it also frees us from a lot of unnecessary judgement of other negotiation styles.


The Essential “How.”

The question “how” is a very nice question, because it is a very simple question. When you ask someone a “how” question, they can usually explain without much fuss what they mean.

“How are you?”

“How do you get to the post office?”

“How is your meal?”

“How is your family?”

“How would you deal with X?”

“How did you become a (insert religion?)”

I say the question is “nice” because it doesn’t trigger too many emotions. People aren’t put off by it usually. You can even ask a question about religion, sex, or politics without getting into too much trouble. See how nice it is?

On the other hand, “how” is your absolute ally in the workplace. This is especially true if you are new to a team or new to a small business. The sad fact is that even in places where they “value initiative,” many times what they really value is someone asking the question “how” repeatedly, because the way that you might want to do something may be contrary to the way it has been done. I’m not saying it’s right, I’m not saying it doesn’t stunt creativity, I’m not saying that you should kowtow to everyone, but I am saying that a little bit of diplomacy, exercised by asking a lot more “how,” can go a long way to helping one’s job security (notice, I say job, not career).

Twice in my life I have been fired because I didn’t ask “how,” often enough. I relied on my own creativity to get things done and was summarily handed my hat. On the other hand, side jobs I was working at the same time blossomed in ways I couldn’t have imagined, because, well, they were utterly unconcerned with “how” I was doing what I was doing.

For example: as an English teacher, I had full reign in front of the class room. As a guest in people’s work space, I was given full permission to lead and inspire and guide. It was a terrific time, and I had to create my own “hows,” in response to the request, “teach!”

Some people intrinsically have greater attachment to certain styles, methods, and “how’s.”

How to call a customer.

How to answer the phone.

How to handle a problem.

How to cook a dish.

How to dress.

How to build something.

How to move something.

How to write.

The sad part is they don’t realize this. Instead of saying “oh, hey, I appreciate your approach but next time, could you do it like this _____, because_____.” They just ask you, “how are things going?” without proposing a real solution.

Now in my opinion the real reason that people lose their minds over “how”is because they have lost touch with their “why.” It’s the bigger, deeper question of “why” that has to be answered so confidently, that they are able to see how your ideas and contributions to “how” are also valuable.







A Prescription for the Unemployed

Even with the super-low unemployment rates, finding well paying work in the industry of your choice can be a challenge, especially if your CV doesn’t exactly match up with what a crusty hiring manager is looking for. Now, don’t let that discourage you, because his crustyness has nothing to do with you, but everything to do with the pressure he feels.

As one “unemployed” here is my prescription for what to do until you have that full-time, “best effort,” exempt from overtime job that you (and I) are looking for: Take 20 hours of RCI (Research, Contact, Invest) and 20+ of other work. These three, when taken together, will certainly produce an excellent outcome and give you confidence and faith during your search.


This is where you are searching for companies in your geographic areas or industries of choice. Keep in mind that the more specific you are to a geography, the more general your job type and the flexibility of a hiring manger is going to be. So, if you want to stay and live in a small town or city, don’t complain if you end up working at the hardware store even if you would be an excellent materials test engineer. Likewise, if you want to do something super specific, for example a professor of medieval philosophy, you will likely have no choice over your geography. In addition, the larger the labor market means the more selection employers will have and the more work you will have to do in order to earn a more “livable” wage. Spend one third of your time researching companies and contacts.


Simply put, you need community and relationships. I recommend treating the job search a lot like a sales job. I don’t know what the exact filter is, but here is a proposal for what to do with a contact you have researched.

  • 50 contacts a week…leads to:
  • 10 correspondences…leads to:
  • 2 interview (one informational / one job related)…leads to:
  • 1 possible job lead.

It is VITAL to keep score here. This is where you will challenge yourself to hit a number and trust the process, building confidence and hastening your job!

Keep in mind that your objective in contacting someone is to offer to be of help to them and show them how you can make them into heroes, not make yourself a hero.


Investing is all about learning, participating, developing yourself, reading, etc. This is vital work for you to do. You must be reading books in your industry and current magazines / blogs. Polish your resume, polish your online presence, and spend some time writing your own personal blog (like I am doing now)! After  year of blogging, you will be a much better blogger and professional than you ever imagined. Also, this is a good time to look at additional education you might want. If you have an irrelevant degree from a great school, consider a solid marketing certificate. Certificates are way easier than masters degrees, way cheaper, and help shine up your degree in a big way. They might seem expensive on the front end, but if you show the comparative cost with an MBA, this is a bit like finding antique gold at a garage sale.



The Second Question to Ask

Yesterday I wrote about the first question we should ask, “Tell me more.” Now, while not properly a question, that doesn’t matter, the point is that you are requesting your speaker to explain himself. What naturally happens when there are high emotional stakes is that we start to misunderstand.

For example: what I might mean by “hustle,” it might be positive, meaning “that guy is such a hard worker, he really hustles!” or it could mean, “hey, don’t try and hustle me!” The fact is that most audiences are in agreement about the judgement on the meaning, but they are not necessarily in agreement as to what the word “hustle,” meant. That is, until they asked for clarification.

Then comes the second question to ask: “Tell me what you mean by ____.” 

The interrogative (question word) “what” is very useful for getting at the emotion of someone’s meaning, and help them come up with a clear rational for what they are saying. Let’s take a hypothetical: Steve comes into your office and says, “ugh, Ana the secretary, she is so lazy!” you might say, “tell me what you mean by lazy.” And then Steve can explain what he means, “she comes in late, she doesn’t do the work I ask her for, she is on facebook all day, all she does is chat with her colleagues.” and you Steve has a full resume of what frustrates him. Alternatively, Steve might not really have an answer, he might feel and say, “well, I, uh…I guess…well, I really don’t know. I maybe shouldn’t have said that.”

The “tell me what you mean by ____.” is helps the speaker account for the emotions he or she feels.

This is why it’s so powerful, again, you get to take control and the emotions of the individual now have to go back to logic and reason, and you can be a bit more constructive. Alternatively, if you see something that you can do for the individual, you have the opportunity to fix it.

Which word do we choose to fill in the blank? The one with the greatest emphasis. Learn to listen to a speaker and see what word they emphasize most, or the one that they immediately precede with a swear word. THAT is the word that you need them to clarify, because that is their point of greatest pain. Want them to listen to you? Make sure they know that you are listening to them. 


The Hermeneutic of Charity

It is very easy to assume the worst about another.

  • They didn’t show up on time? They don’t respect me.
  • They didn’t complete the project on time? They are lazy.
  • They didn’t communicate with me? They are arrogant.
  • They didn’t fulfill their commitments? They are millenials.

The list goes on, and on…and none of it is of any use.

What happens in life is that our expectations are constantly unmet. Always, always what happens is that something happens inside of us when our expectations are unmet. Some of us can react in resentment or anger, others simply never work with you again. Note, none of this has anything to do with the other person, only our response to them.


The most important thing to realize is the incredible amount of power or importance you have given another person who disappoints you. You had such high expectations for them, of course they would disappoint you at some time or another. Their disappointing you has absolutely nothing to do with them, it has everything to do with the importance you give them.

There are two tools that I would propose when you are dealing with these disappointments:

The first is confusion. Being confused is the most effective psychological tool, because it puts a pause on your amygdala’s fight or flight reaction. It allows you to gather more information, to see the information more clearly. Still mad? Stop, say the words, “I am confused.” That will help you diffuse your own anger, keeping you from going down a spiral of bad emotion.

The second is a hermeneutic of charity. Hermeneutics are how we interpret events or information. If I show up late, for example, it may be helpful to say, “I know that Alan knows that it’s important to be on time, since we talked about this yesterday. However, since I believe he is a good man and would do his very best to be on time, I’m not sure (read: confused) why he is late again. I am sure there is something going on with him or his family, and maybe even there is something I can do to help him.” This takes a great amount of humility to accept that you might not know everything at first.

It’s hard, however, when you don’t get to have those conversations. If you lose a job, it’s easy to resent your previous employer. They might be a two-faced spineless spawn of Satan, but you also get to undo the evil they have done to you by embracing a hermeneutic of charity. It will do far more for you than it will for them, and you will have new opportunities to love and to be understood much better in the future. That is the choice of love, and also the choice of hope.


The Uncertainty Principle and Dead Reckoning

Stephen Tobolowsky talks at great length about the “uncertainty principle.” As  rough quote: “Certainty, like doritos, is best in small doses.” I couldn’t agree more.

The difficulty is that when you are staring down the barrel of untold of changes and life seems to change every day, literally moving 90 degrees to the left one minute, followed by 90 degrees to the right. The rapid changes make for an exhausting emotional rollercoaster of change. It’s not so much that we want certainty as much as all our expectations have been completely flummoxed.

Greek has a term for this: paradox. That is, when something happens that is contrary to our expectations. The problem is that the subconscious does not know what to do with confusion, and so often we may act out in anger, frustration, go on a bender, or pick up an extreme sport. It’s not so much the matter of encountering transcendence that is the motivation for so much of our bad behavior in the face of confusion, it’s rather wanting to make that encounter on our own terms. Rather, we can also choose to embrace confusion, to allow ourselves not to get angry, to not act out of our misguided need to control things.

The choice to make a more positive response lies in two factors that I can see.

First, we have to get change our mindset. What we see as a 90 degree shift may actually be only a five degree movement if we zoom out a bit. It’s not that everything has changed, it’s that there are some adjustments to be made. When we think the adjustments are too large

Second, we have to practice a mindful attitude of dead reckoning. Dead reckoning is a naval term that means that you determine where you are going to be within the next hour with 95% accuracy, and the next 24 hours with perhaps 75-80% accuracy. That is to say, you will likely be right about what will happen on your drive home from work, but you will not expect the very possible car accident that you will be in. You may imagine that tomorrow you will be going to work just as you are now, but you might have a lot less clarity or control over all the other factors 24 hours from now. You recognize that you have a good guess as to what will happen, you have some ability to predict the future, but it’s only a probability, never a sure bet.

What this does is it frees the subconscious from having to ask the question of “what if?” of having to have a need for certainty that cripples us from living and taking risks and becoming flexible to the million and one changes that can take place between now and one week from now.

Today, we got some interesting news. Nothing bad or good (nothing wrong with our health and no deaths in the family), just interesting news. We have a pretty good idea of what will happen in the next hour: we might get a particular email or we might not. We have an even less clear idea of what will happen in 24 hours. Beyond that, we are not engaging that part of the future, because there is so much going on now here in the next hour and 24 hours. Moving beyond what dead reckoning can tell us is only a recipe for predicting what may never have reason to come to pass. For me, I will remain tranquil.



Becoming a Successful Transplant

What would happen if you tried to transplant a tomato with no roots?

Part I: Decision

The first is making a decision. Decisions are usually more cognitive in nature, and they do not seem to cost as much emotional energy. There may be hiccoughs, ups and downs, but there comes a point when that decision becomes firm, i.e. when you have firmly resolved something, and when it becomes hard, i.e. when you buy the non-refundable plane tickets. That starts the second step, this is when preparation happens.

Part II: Preparation

Preparation is perhaps more emotionally challenging. What you have decided to do hasn’t yet come to pass, but there is a ton to do before you can move. This is where you have to emotionally process the “goodbyes.” The best is to say goodbye early and often, taking stock of every moment and enjoying it.

The strangest part about this time, however, is that you will tend to become much more emotional. You will experience parts of your past with incredible clarity and sentimentality. You will become increasingly more vulnerable and things that you used to not care much about suddenly become drastically important. It’s a weird time, because nothing concrete has happened, but you have to challenge your subconscious to behave. the most important thing to maintain is hope, hope that the future will be better than the present or the past. Hope that you will find exactly what you need when you need it. Without that hope, the time of preparation can become incredible claustrophobic.

Another cure for this preparation claustrophobia is to be truly present. Take deep breaths and focus on the sensations of all the sights, sounds, smells, tastes and textures you encounter. Add to that the more important things, such as the relationships with friends. for our time in Spain we are taking stock of the friends we have made here, the lifestyle, the ease of life without a car, the phenomenal care and love we have been given by so many during our time here. We have allowed our roots to grow deep, to allow our skills to develop, so much so that we almost begin to think of Spain as home.

Part III: Transplanting.

This is where all the preparation and all the decision comes to fore. It is also one of the most difficult parts because none of your memories are present to you, neither is anything from your most recent past. Here we return to the question of the tomato. Transplanting  is a shock, and it requires lots of care and attention. If the tomato had feelings, I’m sure it would be quite frustrated about getting moved around. It is a long, hard process before the tomato is finally stable, but with enough time, it begins to feel itself right again.

But what would happen if the tomato hadn’t had enough time to grow roots? It would wither. It would not have the resources it needs to start seeking out it’s new root system and find a lot of what it needs quickly enough to survive. It would have less of a chance to thrive and be alive on account of competition from other plants.

We don’t need to be in a hurry to put down permanent roots, because our roots will grow again. Roots grow naturally no matter where we are. Any transition requires a lot of work and emotional energy, and it will not feel great for a long time. But as time passes, it will flourish and begin to produce some of the very best fruit it has ever produced.