Can learning to negotiate really change your life?

The short answer is yes. The longer answer is yes, but it takes practice.

You negotiate every day. It may not seem like it, but you are negotiating every time you try to influence someone to give you something or do something for you. Sometimes our negotiations are big ones – promotions, pay rises, supplier negotiations – and sometimes they are small – who is picking up the kids or getting the coffee.

It’s clear that being a better negotiator will help us with the big negotiations that have profound impacts on our lives. New jobs, partners, promotions, homes – the outcomes of these negotiations do change our lives, undoubtedly.

But are the small negotiations that important? I would argue that they really are. Getting used to asking for small, low stakes things will help us prepare for when we are asking for the big things.

A client of mine is highly successful in her chosen profession and has a unique and sought-after skill set. Even though she is extremely capable and well regarded in her industry, she was paralysed when it came to negotiating a promotion she knew she deserved. Over several months I challenged her to engage in larger and larger negotiations with people around her. She learnt to ask without getting agitated, she learnt to identify her stress triggers and she progressively gained the confidence to tackle the big negotiation she was facing.

We all want to be great negotiators when we are in the big arena, in the big moments that change our lives, but success there starts with practice in the small negotiations.

And no-one wants to be the person who always gets the coffee, so learn to say no from time to time and build your negotiating skills one day (or one coffee run) at a time.