You have no bargaining power unless you’re willing to walk away

If you’re not willing to walk away from a negotiation at work or in life, you’re not going to get at least a little of what you want. Standing firm and letting go are core actions when reaching an agreement.

A couple of years ago, my company pitched a big contract. And we really wanted it—for a lot of reasons. However, the client thought we were going to be able to complete the project in a ridiculous time frame. When my team huddled before the phone call to sort it out, I said to them, “I really want this contract. I know you do too. But we have no bargaining power unless we’re willing to walk away. And I’m letting you know, I’m willing to walk away from this one if they don’t agree to our timeline. I hope you’ll understand if I do.”

Burning emotional energy is a cost also

If we took this project with those kind of impossible timelines, we’d burn out our core team in no time at all. We’ve been there before and it isn’t fun. My experience was telling me that if the client couldn’t accept a more reasonable timeline, it wasn’t worth it for my team. We’re in business to make money. But, when you expend way too much emotional and psychic energy, no one ever makes enough money to compensate those losses. I was prepared to let it go.

Because of my willingness to walk away, I was clear about what we could and could not deliver on the phone call, and we came to a more reasonable agreement. But, because I was willing to let it go, it was easier for me to stand firm on my terms.

Why are you holding on so hard?

This is the truth about life. So often, too often, more often than we’d like to admit, we hold on too hard: to relationships, to jobs, to friends, to harmful emotional energy that leaves us wrecked. We let spouses, friends, teachers, colleagues, children, relatives—so many people—make us feel like we have to keep going in all types of situations.

But if you’re not willing to walk away, you’re not going to get at least a little of what you want. So try it the next time you have to negotiate. Feel the situation in your hand. Visualize what it would be like to let it slip away. And get ready to stand firm.

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