The key to winning any negotiation

Nobody Wants to Read Your Sh*t. That’s the name of Stephen Pressfield’s latest book. There’s a passage where he talks about the commitment required to write a novel. The dedication. The care. He goes on to pose a question: Are you prepared to scrap eighteen months of work if it’s not good enough? Are you willing to press reset after you’ve sunk masses of time and energy into something?

Pressfield is talking about the willingness to walk away.

You’ve applied for a job. You breeze through the application process and blitz the interview. The job is perfect. And they offer it to you. The salary is £40k-£45k per year. You accept, but with one condition. You want to be paid at the upper bound of that range. “But that’s not how we do things here” they say. They respond to your condition by telling you, “the higher end is what your salary could rise to over the next few years.” You respond, saying you need some time to think about it. 

Yes, the job is perfect. You can leverage what you’ll learn there further down the line. But you don’t want to be paid at the lower end of the scale. So now, the question is, “should I walk away?”

In Secrets of Power Negotiating, Roger Dawson says this about being prepared to walk away

“The minute you pass the point when you’re willing to say, “I’m prepared to walk away from this,” you lose in the negotiations. Be sure you don’t pass that point. There’s no such thing as a sale you have to make at any price, or the only car or home for you, or a job or employee you cannot do without. The minute you pass the point where you think there is, you’ve lost in the negotiations.”

Threatening to walk away isn’t easy. Telling a potential new employee you won’t take the job unless they offer you more money takes nerve. Declaring to a friend that you’ll break off the relationship if they continue to be disrespectful and malicious is difficult. Deciding to leave the country if it’s political ideals and direction goes south takes courage. But it’s even harder, and takes even more guts, to follow through on those resolutions. 

Threatening to walk away feels like staring down into a deep, dark abyss. It seems like you’re about to throw yourself into a bottomless pit. That feeling paralyses and inhibits 95% of the population. So they settle for less than they could of had. They take less than they deserve. 

But what allows the other 5% to calmly and confidently take that step into the darkness? It’s because where you see darkness, they see light. Where you see no other option, they see alternatives. Where you see a bottomless pit, they see a landscape which they can mould according to their will.

Dawson goes on to say

“You develop Walk-Away power by increasing your alternatives. Remember that the side with the most options has the most power.

The number of options you have is determined by two things. First, the power of your imagination, and second, your willingness to go out and find them. You gather more options when you imagine and hunt for them. When you focus on the possibilities, instead of the limits. 

There’s always another house, another job, another car. You can make more friends, you can find another girlfriend. You can watch another film, read another book, go on a different holiday. 

There’s not many scarce resources in this world. And once you realise that, you have power because you know you can walk away. You know there’s another way. You know you’ll be okay.

You don’t have to take what they offer. You can say no thank you. And despite what your lizard brain screams, you’ll survive. You might even find something better