Negotiate, Collaborate

by Christopher Lovejoy on February 1, 2020

At one time, I imagined a negotiation as a single row of people sitting on one side of a long table facing another row of people sitting on the other side of the table, or else I imagined a negotiator surrounded by listeners going heart-to-head with a kidnapper or hostage taker.

These days, my notion of negotiation is considerably expanded.

In a post that I published at the start of 2020 entitled Focus Flow Freedom 2020, I surmise that collaboration will be a prominent theme in the year to come, especially for those who find themselves “charging full speed ahead with their creativity, collaborating intuitively, decisively, and effectively behind the scenes to inform and transform this world from the inside out.”

Today, a new and much improved notion of negotiation finds its heart in collaboration, an intimate connection that serves to make any sort of conflict potentially meaningful as well as productive for all parties, one that finds itself exploring and evolving beyond business or crisis.

Think for a moment of the many opportunities you have to negotiate in your favor, in a typical day in the life of you, and think back on your life to realize how it might have been different, or better, had you developed the skills of a trustworthy and competent negotiator. Just imagine.

Now, you might be thinking, “I don’t care much for battles,” and here I would totally sympathize, but what if I told you that the best negotiators among us don’t care much for battles either? What if I told you that you can bring heart and soul into any negotiation for mutual benefit?

No, they don’t, and yes, you can.

You might also be thinking, “I don’t care much for manipulation,” and here I would concede that, yes, negotiation does lend itself to some pretty crafty manipulation, especially when the emotions run high because the stakes are so high, which begs the question: is the influence gonna be shrewd? Or devious? Is it gonna be backed by practical hardheaded intelligence? Or marked by insincerity and deceit?

In view of the inevitability of conflict in human relations, do we throw the baby (negotiation) out with the bathwater (polluted by insincerity and deceit) or do we keep the baby and purify the bathwater?

Any conflict, any conflict, in life or love, at work or play, is ripe for negotiation, and the most amazing thing about all of this is that if you go searching for a map to negotiate, you’ll also find a gold mine of tips, techniques, tactics, and turns of phrase to be a great negotiator.

For myself, I am highly motivated, inspired even, to plumb the depths of negotiation (a) because my personality type is perfectly suited to doing so; (b) because I already have a keen interest in resolving conflict; and (c) because negotiation has become so intriguing to me.

The field of negotiation is rich with content and method. Based on what little I’ve realized about it so far, I’ve come to a working definition of negotiate, one that I will continue to define and refine as I go and grow and gain ever more experience and skill as a daily negotiator.

My current working definition of negotiate has two components, as follows …

(1) to navigate a field of resistance: more specifically, to pass through, around, and over obstacles leading to a solution or a resolution; the field is what arises between two or more parties to a conflict, and the resistance is either mental or emotional, conscious or unconscious.

Here, being in a genuine state of curiosity, preferably in the flow, comes highly recommended, as does generous doses of tactical empathy if, as, when the pressure to come to terms begins to mount and/or if, as, when defensive postures and measures fall on an upward curve.

Nice and slow, inflecting downward: “It sounds like you’re under a lot of pressure.”

Yes, I know, we’re naturally wired to be negative. A word to the wise: “stay even under pressure.” How am I supposed to do that? you might ask. Practice, and then practice some more; research indicates 75% of the real estate in your amygdala is dedicated to negative thoughts.

If ever there were a reason to be compassionate with your fellow beings, this is it.

(2) to get X to do Y with respect, without regret, in exchange for Z: Z is what you bring to the table, figuratively speaking; X is the other party or parties to the negotiation; Y is anything from guiding someone down the rabbit hole to helping someone come to terms with heartache.

Actually, Y is a variable with infinite range and scope. Y can be any action taken in the world, from buying to selling, from teaching to learning, from producing to promoting, from serving as a mirror to being generously tipped for serving as a mirror ~ anything that brings mutual benefit.

any act in your world is an act of negotiation

any interaction that involves a transaction is
a negotiation in the interests of collaboration

the most dangerous negotiation in your world
may be the one you don’t know you’re having

If to negotiate, then, means to navigate a field of resistance to get X to do Y with respect, without regret, in exchange for Z, then negotiation is a process of discussion where you get to negotiate your way to a solution or resolution by coming to terms and/or making agreements.

Any negotiation is construed and constructed as moving through three phases:

(1) preparation: a slow but steady conversation about what X actually needs

(2) negotiation: a formal or informal discussion conceded and conducted with the intention of coming to terms and/or reaching an agreement to realize a mutually beneficial result or outcome

(3) application: a bona fide implementation of the terms and/or the agreement

This formulation is decidedly other-centered: it’s not about getting what you want (discounts, upgrades, bonuses) by manipulating others into compliance; it’s about genuinely caring to meet what others actually need, so as to build sturdy bridges to the future for mutual benefit.

Here’s what I’ve learned generally so far about each of these three phases:

(1) preparation can be fraught with difficulty if you don’t know what you’re doing;

(2) negotiation is complex but need not be complicated if you do know what you’re doing; and

(3) the ever elusive “it’s a deal” at the end of a negotiation comes in three flavors: (i) a counterfeit “yes” (used as an escape route); (ii) the “yes” of confirmation (an affirmation with no promise of action); and (iii) the “yes” of commitment (an agreement that leads to action)

Where collaboration through negotiation is concerned, it’s one thing to be given the keys to the magical kingdom, it’s quite another to actually use them mindfully, skillfully, and artfully to become a practitioner of negotiating magic. Nevertheless, I trust I’ve whetted your appetite.

Would now be a bad time to enter the magical kingdom?


a negotiation need not be a battle of wills or a fight to the death;
it could be as mundane as getting Johnny to go to bed by 9 p.m.

~ yours

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