Hostage to Negotiation

I’ve spent many hours this month researching the topic of financial negotiation as it applies to women in the workplace. The data is thought-provoking, especially when you consider leadership competency and education. (If you’re interested in seeing why effective negotiation is critical to career success, especially for women, you can see that Forbes article here.)

One main concept I gleaned from this work is that most people (both men and women) express discomfort with the idea of having to negotiate things like a salary or benefits at a new job. In fact, any transaction where finances are involved becomes instantly more stressful when you add a negotiation component into the mix.

Here’s an example: In a highly scientific straw poll I conducted this week, most people said the excitement of purchasing a new car is dampened by the idea that they’ll have to negotiate the price. The effect is two-fold. They (1) hate having to haggle, and (2) always walk away feeling as though they could have done better. After all, if the other party agreed to the current terms, what else might they have agreed to?

You’d think we’d all be experts at this negotiation thing, given that we’re all doing it, all the time, in every aspect of our lives. Oh, sure, we don’t always call it that— we may call it bargaining, compromise, or conflict resolution, but it all amounts to the same thing.

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Change of Pace

Lean on me, when you’re not strong”. – Bill Withers

As some of you may know, or have gathered from previous postings, I’ve had a fun medical year with a broken foot that ended up needing surgery back in September. I am on my feet and walking around now, but I’m still having trouble with mobility and tend to move at what feels like a snail’s pace.

Last week, a friend and I attended an event that turned out to be much larger than I had anticipated. As a result, parking was at a premium, and we wound up in a spot a couple of blocks away.

When we got out of the car, I apologized in advance for the fact it would be slow going, even over such a short distance. Without missing a beat, my friend looped her arm through mine and said “There’s no hurry. We’ll take as much time as you need”.

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Character Study

The better you know yourself, the better your relationship with the rest of the world. – Toni Collette

My son is in his first term of college and is taking a career class that is helping him narrow down career options based on his interests and personality. It’s a pretty brilliant idea, actually. I wish I’d done something similar in my first year of college; perhaps I’d have realized that my chosen career wasn’t a good fit for me and changed tracks.* Instead, I had to figure it out the hard way in my 20’s, when I finally started to realize what I was good at, and what I enjoyed.

I don’t suppose I’m the only one who missed the mark on understanding certain things about myself as I established my adult identity, but I got so many things wrong. There really should be some sort of “adulting” certification, and personality testing should be a mandatory component.

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An Ounce of Stress Prevention

There’s some really interesting research out there on stress and the physical, emotional and mental toll it takes on us. You’re not the only one feeling it’s effects: up to 90% of doctor’s visits are now for stress-related issues.

As I poured through information on life’s most stressful circumstances, it seemed a large number of them fall into three specific categories, and that’s what I’ve written about this month in Forbes: how to reduce common types of stress and feel better.

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Diamond in the Rough

“I, myself, am made entirely of flaws, stitched together with good intentions”. – Augusten Burroughs

Raise your hand if you agree with the idea that “We’re all our own worst critics”.

Everyone’s hand up? Yes? I thought so.

It seems to be part of human nature that we all give more weight to our flaws, slip-ups and inadequacies than our good choices and successes. It’s not an entirely bad thing; we do need our brains to tell us right from wrong so that we learn the correct lessons in life. The issue, however, is that the mechanism rarely stops there and too often flows into destructive self-criticism.

“Hey”, your brain whispers as you lie awake in bed at night, “Remember that totally awkward remark you made the other day? Other people don’t say that kind of stuff. Your social skills are the literal worst. In fact, YOU are the literal worst”.

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Don’t (Con)Tempt Me

“Evil begins when you begin to treat people as things.” — Terry Pratchett, I Shall Wear Midnight

I recently had an, ahem, “conversation” with a well-loved young person in my life about appreciation and gratefulness. Or the lack thereof. (If you have teenagers, you’ve probably had some version of this same conversation.)

I had built a marvelous head of steam. “It’s not only that you don’t recognize my ongoing efforts to love and support you, it’s also that you actually seem to hold these things, and me, in contempt”. (Melodrama, party of one? That’s fine. I own it.)

I expected an eyeroll in response, but instead I got a puzzled look. “I literally have no idea what you’re saying. I don’t even know what that means”.

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The Bright Side

“Choose to be optimistic, it feels better”. – Dalai Lama XIV

Would you call yourself an optimist?

For years, I would have answered this question with a no… I preferred to think of myself as a realist, with a bent toward cynicism and pessimism. I didn’t hold with the idea of pretending that everything was wonderful when it clearly wasn’t.

I also prided myself on recognizing that some things simply couldn’t be changed and didn’t waste my time trying to remake bad situations. I tried, instead, to accept them for what they were. The smart money wasn’t in a Pollyanna approach to the world; there were just too many difficult things in life. I couldn’t possibly be an optimist, because I was a realist.

Why was it so hard for me to walk on the brighter side of life? The crux of the issue, for me, was ego. I equated a pessimistic mindset with intelligence. I wanted to be taken seriously, and I thought that pointing out and dissecting problems meant I was thinking more deeply about life.

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