There are many situations you are in that call for you to negotiate. Some of them are small negotiations that do not require much thought and you may not even notice you are negotiating. On the other end of the continuum are potentially life changing negotiations that require a lot of preparation and probably cause you a good amount of angst. All of these negotiations have at least one thing in common.

The common thread is that all of these situations are governed by rules of what you "should" or "should not" do. These rules are created over the years based on cultural norms and values. By culture I mean your national or ethnic culture within which you were raised, as well as, the culture of your organization, industry and geographical location. These rules govern your relationships and affect what you should or should not say, should or should not ask for, in your negotiations.

When you play by the rules you may not get what you are seeking, but you may feel good you are following the rules. Receiving affirmation for staying within the boundaries of role expectations can be gratifying. However, at some point following the rules and not getting what you want may take its toll and no longer work for you. The act of breaking the rules can be exhilarating on one hand and paralyzing with fear on the other hand. Plus, there will be consequences from breaking the rules and the unintended ones can catch you off guard.

There are ways to address this dilemma, although the power of the force that keeps these rules in place may be very strong. You can take measured steps that get you more of what you want, while maintaining your relationships. It is always good to consider both the process and the outcomes of your negotiations, because relationships need to be paid attention to on both fronts.

4 Steps to Change "I Should" in Your Negotiation

  1. When: describe the negotiation situation and your negotiation partner
  2. I should: the "ought to" message you have about this negotiation situation and person
  3. As a result: the consequences of what happens in the negotiation when you follow the "ought to" message (the rules)
  4. I need to: the action steps you need to take to change the course of your negotiation

An example is,

When I negotiate with my colleagues, I should hear their ideas and concerns (because I was taught to listen first). As a result, they can feel heard, but I may not get a chance to share my ideas and concerns (there is no guarantee they will offer me a turn to speak). In order to be heard and collaborative, I need to identify what is important to me and create openings for me to speak about my ideas and concerns (the more clearly you identify your action steps the more likely you will be able to implement them).

After you prepare this alternative script, you still may feel uncomfortable going through with it. This is understandable as change is hard. One good litmus test is to determine which is more uncomfortable, keeping the status quo or making the change. Once the status quo becomes unbearable that is the time to take a leap of faith and try out this approach. Baby steps.