Non Confrontational personality
It starts with a feeling: Someone asks me for something, and I instantaneously feel a tiny internal wince. I’m inclined to give it to them, even when I know doing so might impact me negatively. I just can’t bear feeling responsible for disappointing others.
In a word, I’m sensitive. I’m pretty good at empathizing with people and intuiting their feelings. Most of the creative professionals I’ve worked with are, too. But while this sensitivity creates a deep emotional attachment to our work and can make us better artists, it can also turn us into lousy negotiators. I often hear these sorts of complaints from other creatives:
“I never want others to think I’m being pushy or mean.”
“I’m afraid I’ll lose the opportunity if I ask for too much.”
“I hate confrontation.”Now I think of negotiation as the investigative stage of the creative process. It’s where I can bring my creative power to the table.
Sensitive people all too often give in to these anxieties. Sometimes the easiest way to make that bad feeling go away is just to compromise and take the offer.
But over time, I’ve learned to tap into my intuitive side when these sorts of emotions rise up and I feel ready to give in during a negotiation. Rather than try and shut down that impulse, I channel it into a productive use. Now I think of negotiation as the investigative stage of the creative process. It’s where I can bring my creative power to the table and use it as one in a series of steps of discovery.
It helps to start by coming to grips with the skills and characteristics that make you so good at your work. Before your next negotiation, take an inventory. If you’re a creative professional, or just creatively minded, but think of yourself as pretty nonconfrontational, these traits might describe you:
Analytical skills: Good creative work is surprisingly analytical. It’s the result of a series of deliberate choices, a process of learning, trying things, selecting the best, and improving on it continuously.
Enthusiasm: Our enthusiasm for our work fuels it and helps attract clients’ interest and trust. It’s what makes others want to play on our team–it’s contagious. Those thrilling moments of mutual enthusiasm are when I’m most engaged with my client and my work.
Empathy: Empathy is a critical skill for creative professionals in particular and is common among nonconfrontational people in general. It lets us put ourselves in the shoes of the people we’re working for, even if they’re really different than us. In fact, according to a 2010 study published in the Academy of Management Journal, understanding the needs of others can fuel creativity itself.
Vulnerability: This is the flip side of empathy: If you’re seeking to understand someone, you first need to let yourself be understood–it’s a two-way street. This quality facilitates the work we need to do as teams and helps us be more open to creative options.You might find the sticking point isn’t what they say it is (price, for example) but has to do with some deeper personal reason (for instance, saving face).
Intuition: In our creative work, we go with gut reactions and leaps of faith. We follow that not-quite-specific feeling to look at a different perspective, or try seemingly illogical methods that sometimes produce amazing results.
Drive: The creative pros I know are energetic, resilient, and tireless in their work. When they get started on a project, they’ll push through sleepless nights and meal-less days to get it done.
So what do all these qualities have to do with negotiating? Well, once you’ve taken stock of the traits, skills, and habits of mind that help you excel in your work, you can understand how to deploy each of them to drive a harder bargain.
It isn’t about becoming the confrontational person you aren’t; it’s about using the person you already are a little more strategically. Here’s how to turn these same, “unbusinesslike” sensitivities into useful negotiating tools.
Analytical skills: Use those analytical methods you’ve honed in your work to determine what might be going wrong in the negotiation and look for solutions on the fly. Creatives are born problem-solvers.
Enthusiasm: You already have a natural enthusiasm that inspires people–now use it with the people across the table. If you’re truly excited about their project, or about how you can help them, don’t hold back on sharing your enthusiasm. A successful negotiation doesn’t require a poker face.
Empathy: Empathize with your negotiation partner in order to understand what they need or believe is at stake. You might find the sticking point isn’t what they say it is (price, for example) but has to do with some deeper personal reason (for instance, saving face). This might actually be something that more a argumentative, confrontational person would miss.