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This is Why Everything is Really a Negotiation

By |January 16, 2024

What’s negotiation anyway?

When most people think about negotiation, their mind immediately goes to bickering about price. 

That’s actually bargaining, not negotiation. Bargaining is about what people want, or the price someone wants to pay. Negotiation is about why they want it. 


When you look at negotiation, it’s basically discovering why the other side wants what they want. You’re seeking to uncover their reasoning, motives, and underlying emotions. It’s a discovery process, where you’re looking at why the other side wants what they want and how you can both benefit. Once you’re able to discover these things, that’s when you can collaborate to get a satisfactory outcome

If you negotiate well enough, bargaining goes out the window. You make people feel so heard and understood, that they no longer feel the need to bargain.  

You’re always negotiating.

What people don’t realize is that almost every conversation they have, every day, is some kind of negotiation. 

Whenever there’s a want or a need present on either side, you’re in a negotiation. And everybody always wants or needs something. 

The thing that trips people up is that they’re still thinking of negotiation as bargaining. They think that because there’s no price on the table, no formal deal, that it’s not a negotiation. 

When you don’t recognize a negotiation as a negotiation, it’s much harder to be successful in it.

If your child wants to go somewhere on the weekend and they ask you about it, you have to recognize it as a negotiation. They want something from you. So now you need to reframe it and start thinking, “I need to figure out why she wants it, what’s the whole plan, is she finished with her homework or chores, etc.” 

When you start to reframe situations as negotiations, it’s easier to collaborate. Without the reframing, you’ll be stuck haggling and bargaining: 

“You’re not going to like this answer. You can’t go to your friend’s house because your room isn’t clean.” 

“Well, if I clean it, can I go?”

“There are still a lot of chores that need to be done…”

Instead, negotiation invites communication and collaboration.

“Would it be ridiculous for you to finish cleaning your room and get your chores done before you go?”

Negotiation is about communication.

Some people object to negotiation because they think it’s manipulation. If you’re trying to force someone to do what you want, or leveraging them for your benefit, that’s coercion, not negotiation.

Negotiation is all about intentions. It’s not just about finding out why the other side wants something and then leveraging it against them, or getting something better out of them. That destroys any chance at a long term, trust-based relationship.

It’s about communication

The Black Swan skills are essentially communication techniques that put you in a collaborative mindset. Then, anytime you want or need something, or somebody else wants or needs something from you, you can have a productive conversation around it. 

Real negotiation is trust-based influence that seeks collaboration.

Learn everything you need to know about mastering your tone of voice.

Start negotiating at Starbucks.

You show up at Starbucks and you want coffee. Can you negotiate at Starbucks? A lot of people will say “No, you can’t, because the price is the price.” That’s true—the price is the price. 

But if you go to Starbucks and you treat the barista poorly and she gives you decaf instead, it’s because you were in a negotiation and you failed to realize it. 

These are the situations where your skills as a negotiator are formed. Because where there’s want or need, there’s a negotiation, and the way you handle it—the deference and respect that you show or fail to show—is going to determine whether or not you get what you want or need. 

The beauty of this, and something that my clients are constantly realizing, is how great life can become when you begin negotiating, even in the little things.

Your relationships start to fall in place when you begin to really listen to and demonstrate an understanding of the other side. Your business and personal relationships will be more peaceful and cooperative. 

“For the first time in a really long time, I feel like I’m happy again,” a client recently told me. 

The choice is yours. You can choose to continue to get frustrated and struggle to communicate effectively, or you can start seeing things as they really are—negotiations. 

Tone in Communication: Why Your Tone is Killing Your Negotiations Guide