If your situation involves, or requires, an interaction with other people it’s a negotiation and you’ll either be wanting to win friends or at the very least you’ll be wanting to influence those people in some way. Your best shot at doing that successfully will be if you start by preparing yourself properly.

In the real world you have to accept there’s no place for fantasy or wishful thinking. The situation (whatever it might be) “… is what it is, and you are where you are, and it doesn’t help to bemoan the past or rail against the present.”

This isn’t always easy, especially in contentious situations. There your focus should be on what’s in your best interest and not on apportioning blame. It’s almost never in your best interest to annoy, insult or antagonize other folk, no matter what’s happened.

You need to concentrate on planning a way forward, with a view to doing something about the future.

To get to where you would like to be, from where you really are, requires a roadmap, a practical plan. To construct such a plan you need to be clear about the parameters within which you have to work.

Establishing goals and accepting reality

There are three key steps:

  • what is the actual situation now (or – where are you)?
  • what do you want (or – where would you like to be)?
  • and what would you do (or – where would you be) if your negotiation plan failed?

Your current situation

It very rarely matters how you got into a situation in the first place. It usually matters how you get out of it or improve on it. Any time spent on blaming others, or yourself, is effectively time wasted. You need to convince yourself of this. You need to believe it. This is fundamental to “prepare yourself” negotiating.

Your goals

Where you want to go or where you want to be, ie, your goals, are equally important. If you don’t have a plan you’ll either go nowhere or end up as part of someone else’s plan. If you don’t have a destination, it doesn’t matter in which direction you try to go. Most of all it will be wasted movement.

Equally if your goals are unrealistic you’ll either fail to achieve them or fail to make progress towards them. You’ll instinctively know they’re not achievable. You won’t be motivated to give it your best shot.

Your BATNA (Best Alternative To A Negotiated Agreement)

You have to be clear on the point at which you’ll walk away, ie, when no deal (utilising your alternative possibility) would be better than a bad deal (accepting the other side’s proposals whatever they may be). You need to know your BATNA.


Firstly, assess your current situation in a clear-headed way. Don’t be fanciful. No “if only’s”. Secondly, know whether you have what it takes to achieve your goals. Make them realistic. Thirdly, have a clear exit point, or red line, beyond which you will not go. The more you can improve your BATNA the stronger will be your resolve, not to be taken unfair advantage of, when you need it most, ie, when you’re under pressure.

For it to become your default approach to interactions “prepare yourself” negotiating takes practice but, once mastered, pays an unending stream of dividends. It becomes as simple as one, two, three!

“Prepare Yourself” Negotiating

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