Getting what you want. (aka Guaranteed Happiness)
One of the sites I get to enjoy regularly via my Google Reader is lifehacker.com. They tend towards the techy side but they offer a lot of clever insights on handy little “Life Hacks” that may or may not be useful. One that popped up today was “Negotiate Anything“. Every once in a while I run across something or somebody that kinda re-enforces my beliefs and helps me understand a bit more about how things work, and how I can use my abilities to make them work more in my favor. In this world you can’t have everything instantly, but with a little careful strategy you can tilt the table in your favor and have a few more things go your way than those that might not.
The Lifehacker article I linked to above talks about Herb Cohen. Honestly I’d never heard of the guy. But supposedly he’s the “defacto” negotiator. I watched the video in the article and a lot of what he said really resonated with me (I guess it’s that Althouse blood, hehe). He says the three variables in negotiation are power, time, and information. I’d never really thought of it like that, but when I’m “negotiating” those three things are what I focus on, I just never really thought about it like that. I kinda just went on “instinct” I guess (again, thanks Dad for those genes).
You might think about your “negotiation skills” and you think about buying a car or a house, or interviewing for a job. But if you think about it, pretty much every decision in your life is a negotiation. Will I do this or not? It all depends on whether you agree with the other person. Even when you don’t think there’s another person there. For instance say you’re hungry and a Big Mac would REALLY hit the spot. If I asked you right now what a Big Mac cost you probably couldn’t tell me. But you know if you rolled up to the drive through window and they said “Big Mac’s are $15 today.” You’d say to hell with that no matter how reasonably hungry you were. But I’m willing to guess most of the time when you go through the drive through, you look at the price, pull around, pay it and go on your way. You and Mc Donald’s just negotiated a fair price for your meal that you both agree on.
But, Matt you’re 400 words into this and I still don’t know how to get what I want! I feel cheated!
First off. Nobody gets what they want. Hate to break it to ya. Now, I know what you’re thinking. You knew it. You knew I didn’t have any secret knowledge that unlocked the universe, and definitely not any knowledge that will just get people to hand over the goods. Do you want to know the secret though? Do you REALLY want to know?…. The secret is something you’ve long suspected. That some people get what they want more often than others. And lets be honest with each other. When you get what you want. You’re happy. Me? 9 days out of 10 I’m a happy camper. Hey, we all have a crummy day now and again.
Fine then. How do I get what I want…. more often?
Glad you asked!
What is it that you want? A pony? They’re cool, but who’s gonna scoop all the poop? A million bucks? Well there’s those printing presses, but I hear they’re cracking down on who gets to use ’em. And then there’s that working your whole life and earning it. But that’s lame.
Honestly though, this is the hardest part. Whether it’s deciding what you want to do for a living, or whether you look better in hot pants or bell bottoms. A lot of times you know you want something but you don’t know that that is. Best advice I can give you is don’t over think it. By the time you’ve narrowed it down to a couple good choices just be bold, pick one and go with it. Commit to it. Live and breath it if you have to, even in the face of those that laugh and tell you you’re crazy. Did it ever occur to you that you look GREAT in hot pants AND bell bottoms?
Be realistic. Big things take a lot of time and resources. Which either means you’re going to need a lot of help, a lot of time, or a ridiculous amount of luck. Also consider all the draw backs. For example. People like to look at celebrities and think how nice it would be not to have to worry about money and be known every where you go. But along with that means you can’t even go buy toilet paper without getting stopped for autographs, and everybody hears about it when your wife chases you down the driveway until you hit a fire hydrant.
Some things are nice but require ongoing maintenance. Swimming pools are awesome, but it’s a lot of work to keep them from becoming a lab experiment, and every year you have to winterize them and recondition them for summer. A gym membership will let you swim whenever you want, someone else takes care of the pool, and it’s cheaper, but you have to leave your home and swim with random strangers.
You can’t have it all for a little, so be realistic or you’re going to be disappointed.
Check the emotions. Sorry, drama llamas. The word is out. Nobody cares how much your life sucks. I don’t say this to be mean, or infer that your friends and family don’t care about your burdens. I say it because lamenting on why you are so downtrodden is never going to be a good tactic for getting what you want. Never. Ever. Because the people that care are probably already helping you in every way they can. That only stands to reason that everyone else doesn’t care. You can hate the world and bitch about them being selfish insensitive pricks, or you can check the baggage and get in the game.
The biggest thing that Herb Cohen said in the video in that Lifehacker article is to think of negotiations like a game. “Because in a game you care. You REALLY care. But… not that much.” In a game you always want to win. And it sucks when you lose, but shoot. It’s just a game.
It seems counter intuitive, but checking the emotions is (in my opinion) the most important part of actually getting what you want. Not only do you approach things with a more level head, but you can really FREAK PEOPLE OUT. Grandpa Frank told me a story once about his first car. It was a 1942 Chevy (I think, Grandma ask Grandpa and correct me on these details if I’m wrong). Frank and his Dad went to look at this car. Frank loved it. The fella wanted $400 for the car. His Dad said “No way. I’ll give you $250 for it.” Of course the guy scoffed at the offer. Frank’s Dad just said “Fine,” and headed back to the car. Frank couldn’t believe it. It wasn’t the greatest car, but his dad couldn’t even cough up $400 bucks for his son’s first car? I’m sure he’d already pictured himself shining it up, driving it to school showing it to all his friends. But instead he was sitting in the PASSENGER seat of his father’s car as they drove AWAY from HIS car. Lo and behold as they’re driving away, the seller chases them down half the block just to ask Frank’s Dad if he’ll still buy it for $250.
Getting what you want right now always comes with a price. But always give the impression that whatever you’re after isn’t that important. That you can afford to walk if you don’t get what you want. My Dad always said, “Never underestimate how desperate someone is to get rid or something.” And the converse it true as well. Never underestimate how badly someone wants what you have to offer. This applies to everything. Cars, jobs, heck even relationships!
Be prepared to compromise. If you look at compromise as defeat, you’re NEVER going to get what you want. Instead look at it as opportunity. Because THIS is the crucial moment where you can really skew things in your favor. This is where you have to opportunity to do what is in YOUR best interest. Think WAY back to the beginning. The three key variable of negotiation are power, time, and information. By playing the cards you’re strongest in and minimizing your weaknesses, you will usually come out on the favorable end, even if only slightly. But in the end, if you reach that agreement you’ve gotten what you want right?
For example, when I wanted to paint my car. I realized I had a lot more time than money. TIME>POWER. I had read and seen results of people who’d painted their cars with a roller and rust-o-leum. Armed with this INFORMATION my car got painted over the course of a few months. Does it look as good as a show car? No… but it’s a compromise. One I’m pretty satisfied with.
And finally, just remember. Usually almost always all the time things are the way they are for a reason. Don’t over think things. Don’t force things. But most of all, don’t convince yourself that you can’t do something that tons of other folks already do. Figure out what you want. Figure how to get it. And GET IT!