Archive for the ‘Negotiation’ Category

The blessing of negativity

December 28, 2017

If you are having trouble getting yourself to take action, try saying no to yourself.

This is actually what you do anyways when you hesitate to do something you don’t want to do. You are telling yourself no, and you don’t know how to deal with it.

Your brain will try to justify it, and often have no good reason.

But if you expect to hear no from yourself, you can prepare for it.

Often, your ‘reason’ for not doing something is some vague anticipation of a negative feeling associated with the action.

But the negative feeling is not a result of the thing you are thinking about doing. It is the result of hesitation.  If you were doing it, you would be focused on the task at hand, not these negative emotions. Your brain is doing the best it can until you start the action. Your brain wants to build on the negative feeling to the point where the ‘brake option’ is fully accessible, thus keeping its options open by not committing to a course of action. So negativity is positive in that it is your brains default way of keeping options open. It must work to promote our survival or we would not be so prone to it as a species.

We can learn to be grateful for the negativity and then reassure ourselves that we can stay flexible without forcing it through worry because we know the ‘brake option’ is going to exercise itself involuntarily.  The negativity exercises itself, like a parasympathetic muscle, making sure our brake systems work. It is reassuring to know this, and allows us to take action knowing that negative emotion will arise again, either as exercise, another ‘drill’, or a real situation where we have to put on the brakes , step back and do something different than we are doing.

Try seeing negativity in this softer light and see how it works for you.


To go with your gut, you need the guts to truly get to your gut.

December 16, 2017

You are going to read the beginning of this post and probably not see how you would ever use it. It is too long and complicated – not really feasible to use. It is the opposite of making decisions using your gut – the more left brain part of the equation.  It is useful and necessary to lay it all out. You’ll see why. At the end of this post I will offer something feasible. Promise.

If you are feeling badly or worried about any activity, thing or situation, instead of focusing on that thing – take stock of any agreements with others that you have related to it.

This can apply to anything. Sex requires agreement, for example. Washing dishes also involves agreement, and everything in between.

How do you know you have a good agreement? An agreement always involves two or more parties, so you can’t really every full know how the other side is with it. Start by looking at your part in it.  You have to compare now to what it was like before the agreement. This may be some time ago.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself. Don’t over think the answers initially.  GO through it quickly and then review if you think your answers need more added.

Who are the parties to this agreement?

Who is impacted by the agreement?

What is the financial impact of the agreement?  Earnings. Savings. Insurance – present and future?

How does it impact your time? Does it save time you time or take up more time

How does it impact your energy  – does it add to it or detract from it

How does it impact you emotionally? Frequency, duration and intensity of those feelings.

How well are others adhering to the agreement? What are the incentives and obstacles to adhering. How easy is it to enforce the agreement? How does that adherence and enforcement impact you financially, time wise, energy wise, and emotionally.

An agreement can save you time, money and energy, but if you hate living under the terms of the agreement, what is it worth?

How does this agreement impact your ability to negotiate other agreements?

How does it impact your authority to be party to other agreements?

What related problems does this agreement leave out?

What problems does this agreement impact? negatively or positively.

What’s the worst that can happen if you stop adhering to the agreement? What’s the best that can happen? What’s the worst that can happen if you continue to adhere to the agreement? What’s the best that can happen? I got this question from Dr Ben Carson book and I call it the WBWB question. You can apply it to any decision.

Now try to go through all these questions with the other parties to the agreement.



The GUTS hack:

It is hard to do this analysis because we spend a lot of time trying not to feel bad or uncomfortable.  We distract ourselves. We have agreements to do things that help us not to feel so bad about the impact of our own bad or fuzzy agreements on ourselves. As an example, we may have people who agree to interact with us on social media with us, or not complain about our being on social media, and that’s how we cope.

As I write this post and try to think of something to evaluate, I am finding it hard. I feel pretty good right now. Since I am doing well, who cares? Nothing is coming to mind, and this is a lengthy and complicated set of questions.

How can I distill it down? A recent or current unpleasant situation. Here is one that just happened.

9 year old Clara lost the horseshoe that we use to keep the shed door closed. She doesn’t remember where she put it.  Shed door was open for about 24 hours. I want her to not do things like that generally.  Are there any agreements related to this? In my mind, yes. But in reality, no.  She asked to go in the shed to get snow shovels and I agreed.  She did exactly what she said she was going to do. I didn’t give her a condition before saying yes.  I didn’t think about what else I care about could be impacted.

I negotiated a crap agreement – AGAIN!  How can I alert myself to these situations where I am being too hasty in making agreements?

Any time you make a decision, you are potentially impacting all the agreements you have in your life. If I go to the gym now, for example, I can’t spend any time, etc on any other agreements.  We make these calculations all the time.

We generally just go with our gut, and that’s fine, but we need ways to go deeper into our guts quickly – a hack. I suggest you ask the WBWB question outlined above.  It is a great question because it helps us see further into the future than current distractions tend to allow. It also helps us tap into our gut.

If you go to your gut using WBWB and you are still unsure and really want more certainty, go to the methods laid out in the beginning of this post to analyze the decision and related agreements. Your gut will tell you its limits and take you to your intellect as needed. You may only need to answer one of the questions and you will get closer to the certainty, the gut feeling that you need to decide. I could go into the whole left and right brain thing, but my gut tells me not too. If I’ve lost you already, more intellectual explanation is not going to convince you.

If you your gut tells you not to use this method then don’t. Just make sure it’s really your gut deciding and not only just your distracted, unfocused, too clever mind rationalizing your choice.


















Two ‘refusal rules’ to follow when you are stuck or procrastinating

May 4, 2016

If part of the problem is that you are just being lazy, own it, then try following these 2 rules if that is not enough to get unstuck.


I. Refuse to be a alone with the problem

Start conversations with people who are impacted by the same problem  or who are simply people who like to be helpful to you.

Try to reach agreements on how you can address the problem in a more coordinated way. Respect their decision to help you or not. Make sure they really want to help or can, and that they are comfortable saying no to involvement in your plan. If they say no, go to rule 2.

Sometimes just an agreement by them to be emotionally supportive can go a very long way.


2. Refuse to tolerate interference from people who decide not to coordinate efforts with you.

Sometimes people don’t agree with how you are going to address a problem and they want to do it their way. This can create more problems than the original problem! You can’t force them not to keep trying do it their way, but you can ask them to pause while you try it your way. You can also agree to try it their way for a time and if it fails,  ask them to try it your way.

Sometimes these conversations reopen the negotiations that ended when you were initially following rule 1.


People are eager to participate when pain is recognized.

January 18, 2016

….a lot of people will run from you when you are in pain, or dismiss it. This causes people to be susceptible to manipulation by people who have an agenda and feign interest in your pain. So that’s a painful thought, but good people recognize pain too, in fact, it is a requirement for compassion which is generally expected from people we consider good.


The quote in the title comes from material by the late Jim Camp, a very successful negotation coach.

Communication Idolatry

December 31, 2015


Here is what I notice people do instead of converse:













I am sure you can think of more.

Conversation includes –



requests for a yes or no to go in a certain direction


I find that if a conversation does not set up any of the items on the first list via an agreement – then communication goes poorly. It is almost like communication idolatry to so. In an established healthy relationship or friendship, that ‘agreement’ can be a simple nod or gesture know only to the two parties. The main point is that the agreement must be there or you are throwing mud at the wall.

And a lot people enjoy doing that – making mud pies and throwing them. Nothing wrong with that in many contexts.

People often sense the bullshit even if they stay polite during the interaction where the idolatry has taken place, and if they don’t sense it, they are usually very easy to manipulate. The agreement needs to give some predictability to what is going to happen for involved parties. Even insults can work in that context and not disrupt progress.

So what I think what we can offer, and not even under the title of ‘coach’ or ‘therapist’, is an ability to identify what is happening when there is an interaction between two people. If someone shares an exchange they had with some with us, using the system we can know right away what is missing.

Listen in on social media and blog ‘conversations’, or just ordinary in-person ones.    See what you observe.


Remedy to the pain of indecision

June 24, 2015

Before you can decide on something, you must be able to visualize it some detail.  Being indecisive is painful, so we want to get out of that pain. The problem for many of this is that we don’t have the tools or mindset to discover the real details to complete the vision, so we fill them in from our past experience or ‘good judgement’  so we can make a decision and feel better.

Patience is key, as is a willingness to embark on discovery. At some level you need to simply be curious. Nurture your own curiosity, and be steadfast with it even in the presence of the curiosity killer – fear.

Fear is almost inevitable if you are just waiting around in the dark and not doing the work of discovery.

Make the decision to discover.

Ask questions. Observe. Take notes so you don’t forget!

Doing so will soothe your fear, and move you toward your best decisions possible.

Getting it wrong is just another discovery on the way to getting it right.


It seems we can’t always avoid fighting so explicit agreements to avoid throwing knock out punches are essential

September 4, 2014

Many disagreements turn into ugly fights  because people feel pressure to get a decision on a matter.  It happens at work and home.  Each party starts hitting harder and harder, or in reaction,  run further and further away from any interaction at all.  However, if both parties give each other permission to step on each other’s proverbial toes and not worry about the outcome, a lot more is going to get aired, and usually that leads to healthier decisions even in the absence of a full agreement.

It actually is fun in many cases, as long as the rules are clear – though not usually pain free. The point is to avoid injury.

Sometimes the instructions on where someone has permission to “hit” you ought to be pretty specific. A married couple cleaning out their cupboard may agree to take the gloves off when talking about what dishware to throw away but not the silverware.






Work first on getting yourself to see clients’ worlds their way, not getting them to see your widgets or valuable services your way

August 28, 2014

When someone tells you no or rejects something you are offering or saying, or refuses a request you make, all it means is that they have not SEEN something.  They have NOT seen how what you bring will benefit them in the world THEY see themselves in. If you have a way to help them see it benefiting them in the world they see, you will have a chance to reverse their no. 

So your job is to discover how they see their world, not to show them what you have or want.  They may refuse to disclose how they see their world, but generally, if you are genuinely interested, and ask well worded questions, you can learn a lot. Once you have a complete enough vision of their world, you can decide to show your stuff or not. Otherwise, you are rolling the dice. 

So we offer nothing to start. We ask to see. 


Below is a script for a conversation I am planning to have tomorrow. Do you think it will help me see how they see their world? 

I‘d like to talk some with you and if you think that Karen would not have any interest in having a conversation with me, just tell me so and we can just end the phone call. If it sounds like it will interest her, then we can go from there. that sou nd ok> So you’ll tell me no if it just does not seem like anything I am interested in? ok. 

Who would kno

What challenges are you facing in expanding your reach to families? 

How do you promote the book? 

(Small bets.  Steve Jobs. Pixar) 


How much are people willing to spend on their kids to give them the best in life? to save their marraige?

What stops people from seeing that Pat’s approach to family health is the very best? 

What about innovating approaches to getting Pat’s message out there? Who is involved in the creative conversations about how to reach more people who can afford your services? 


I just don’t know. I don’t see how what I can do can help you . I don’t know anything about the challenges you face. 


I am famlly therapist who has gotten sales negotiation training and experience.But it doesn’t really matter if this is not an area yuou want to grow in. 

Leverage is just smoke and mirrors in negotiation

March 6, 2014

I am the coach that is quoted in this article from Forbes Magazine. Not too long and worth reading.

Welcome to a scary unpredictable world…..created by you

March 2, 2014

‘ Prediction’ is another word for ‘assumption’ , ‘expectation’ or ‘guess’. If you don’t predict anything for a negotiation event, you can’t have an ‘unpredictable’ negotation, right? It takes a lot of mental discipline not to give into the ‘prediction habit’. What makes it even harder to resist is that ‘everybody’ else is doing it. Jim Camp comes along and says you should pay attention to the cause-effect nature of emotion – vision – decision because it is scientifcally proven and readily observable by all of us. He even dares to say that you lack a systematic way to discover and build vision in your adversaries, and it will get even worse for you, because assumptions are your only alternative in a negotiation. Welcome to the scary unpredictable world of negotiation, created by you because of your prediction addiction, that either drives you to early compromise or manipulative tactics. Everybody does it, so it must be ok. And there is a whole industry profiting off your fear – you are going to be vulnerable to becoming prey to the legion of expert predictors out there who throw around vague terminology that cannot be operationalized and render you dependent on the props they use to create the illusion that adopting their opinions will make you safe. Terms like relationship – emotional connection – personality – style – wise – win-win – competitive envioronment … the list goes on and on of bait terms that they use to get the hook in your mouth.

Families are not immune to this manipulation, and they are even more vulnerable because they don’t like to refer to their communication as ‘negotiation’ until they are going through a divorce. Who profits from this? Lawyers, for starters, and Dr. Phil and the rest of the relationship/self-help industry.

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