Always, ALWAYS, Be Prepared to Walk Away, Part 1

In my two years as a car salesman I attended countless seminars, training sessions, and “inspirational” meetings. And by inspirational I mean a bunch of great sounding mumbo jumbo that really made no sense to me whatsoever. I sucked at negotiating, I knew it, and I had no idea how to fix it. I listened intently to every trainer, every manager, and in theory I understood what they were trying to tell me, but none of their instruction made any sense until a mere two days ago, many moons from my last tour of duty as a “cement soldierTM.” Train all you want, but battle is the best teacher. This particular instance was a negotiation for which I was not at all prepared. Despite the ample dose of wisdom God has given me, I never cease to maintain an even more ample stash of naiveté, blindly whistling along and looking at the clouds thinking everyone desires peace and harmony and beauty as much as I. You know how two dudes can get in a bar fight and five minutes later sit down at that very same bar and have a beer? Unlike women, with whom the slightest conflict results in utter and absolute decimation of the relationship, and an expectation for all mutual friends to do the same. In this instance I prefer to approach life like a dude, with an insane capacity to forgive and a refusal to hold a grudge. When a conflict is initiated and acknowledged, my thought is, “now we can all be adults and move on.” Enter Kimber, with her faithful sidekick innocence on one side and a beer bottle flying towards the other.

My humble and most critical opinion is that I made an incredibly poor showing, but I got home and realized that I had won. I may have gotten a little too emotional (shocker) and there is a sliiight possibility that a little of the “ghetto chic” came out in some of my delivery (yes, I have a little ghetto in me, I listened to a little bit too much rap music when I was in high school). But I won. And the moment I realized I had won came, not coincidentally, immediately after my remembering that at one point during the negotiation I gathered my things and began to walk away. I said, “You know what? You are right. That was our agreement and I’ll take it on the chin, I don’t want your money.” Well something happened when I did that. The person on the other side of the table suddenly wanted to give me the money. It was not as much as I had asked for but it was way better than nothing, which is where he started, and it was double his previously purported opinion of the market value. But the amount did not really even matter; it was that I had made him want to give it to me, when he had previously not wanted to give me anything at all. How did I do that?! Oh yeah! I started to walk away.

My first thought was how the behavior on the other side of the table is a good indication of human nature and how we like it better when things are our idea, and how paradoxically we would much rather help someone that doesn’t need help.

But let’s go back to what was happening on my side of the table when I decided to walk away. It certainly was not a strategic maneuver, as mentioned early I am (was) a horrible negotiator and such a “trick” would never enter my mind, my brain simply does not work like that. I despise manipulation and I have enough trouble trying to monitor my own actions I have no need to try to control someone else’s. What I realized was that something clicked in my head that said this conflict is not worth the money. My decision was twofold. On one hand I just decided to take it like a man and be the bigger person because I was done letting these people make fools of themselves by tripping over their own lies and inconsistencies and simultaneously piquing my outrage at their ignorant arrogance. On the other hand I just decided I didn’t want the money. And I really didn’t want their money. And guess what? As soon as I didn’t want it anymore, they wanted to give it to me.

Of course the obvious deduction is that one must enter into any negotiation or interview as if they are not worried about the money. But as I imagined the many negotiating tables in my future, most of which will concern much more than the paltry sum of this transaction, I realized that money has even less to do with it than that.  In fact, negotiation in a business deal is not about the money one single bit, not at all, the numbers don’t even matter forget the numbers. Negotiation is about learning the people and deciding whether or not you even want to do business with them. So had I known in the beginning what I was being set up for, and had I learned this lesson prior (impossible of course), I would have walked in like Al Pacino and just sat back and listened to them talk all over themselves and then said you know what, (in my best Scarface voice) “I’m not buyin’ your story, sonny… I’m just not buying your story…” But instead since I went in emotionally and financially vested, I had a stake in what was going on and I weakened my position. The same lesson applies to interviews. You are fabulous, you are wonderful, and they already want you. You don’t need this job you have eight other interviews lined up you just want to know how this place does business and if you like it. If not, you can walk away no problem on to the next.

The sad truth is that many do not feel they have this luxury, to act as if they do not need something, or even someone, and almost no one is prepared to walk away. Especially in this “economy crisis” where everyone has their heads all twisted about how hard life is, they want that job, they need that job, they have to get this job! Since the beginning of time the majority has looked awry at people who make the choice to stay single, so we swing like monkeys from trees, not letting go of one monkey until they can grab another monkey. People smell need like a dog smells fear. Remember the guy or girl in high school that wouldn’t stop calling you even though you made it very clear you were not in the least interested? Sure you do, they sat right next to the guy or girl that you were bonkers over that never even gave you the time of day. Be the high school quarterback, be the gorgeous cheerleader, be Al Pacino. Gain control over your emotions and your reactions by making what is on the table worthless. What is on the table truly has no value. The money has no value; the logistics of having a warm body around are meaningless. The people hold the value. The people you will be working with, or supporting, or to whom you give your time. That is who you want to know. Only after you make a detached, observant deduction of what kind of people they are can you make an educated decision on how to proceed with what’s for dinner.

These decisions matter in life, they matter in your world and in your happiness and in your ability to pursue what you love.  Stop looking at the paycheck, stop looking at what qualities you are attracted to in a person, and start looking at the people. I assure you—  Ramen noodles, eaten at a table with someone you love, taste a lot better than a filet Mignon eaten with an a$$hole.