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Negotiating With Yourself

By JB Shelton

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Pillow Talk

You begin every day negotiating with yourself. From the first mellifluous tones of your classical music station, or that strange alarm designed to fall off your bedside table and bounce about the room as it gets louder and louder. You begin every day negotiating with yourself. Applying the ‘Do I really?’ test gets those early morning mental and physical kinks out of the way, although adding a hot shower and aromatic cup of deep roast coffee admittedly do their part.

Self Reflections

Negotiating with (not for or by or in spite of) yourself is as complicated as negotiating with someone else. Perhaps, more so. Our most challenging negotiations are all too often with ourselves. The wisdom of ‘know thyself’ is transformed into the reality of ‘no, myself.’ That face in the mirror stubbornly refuses to smile back. We take every part of life seriously, whether or not the occasion is deserving. We all-or-nothing, think black-or-white, demand always-or-never, as if our lives were destined to fit into a perfect world and anything less won’t suffice.

Do I Really…?

Many decisions take micro-milliseconds. Others are lifelong battles. Most fit neatly in the middle of controllable actions. Asking ourselves, ‘Do I really…?,’ is a key to making wise decisions. It self-enlightens to differentiate between our perpetual angel-on-one-shoulder, devil-on-the-other, wants versus needs.

The BBC Reporter

On a National Public Radio broadcast, a BBC reporter talked calmly about his assignments in the Middle East. He detailed the professional thrill of researching and investigating major stories, interacting with folks he’d remember for the rest of his life, broadcasting the results to enlighten BBC listeners around the world. Meeting confidential sources in back alleys in the black of night became second nature. He had (I imagine), asked himself, ‘Do I really want to put my life at risk for my career?’ and responded with a resounding ‘Yes!’ In his words, ‘Sometimes getting shot at is a bit of a bother.’ A sense of humor will get you far.


Here’s a simple lifesaver, especially helpful when you can’t figure out why you can’t decide. Are you hungry, angry, lonely, tired, and scared or a combination within the quintet? The five cover a multitude of self-destructive sins. Release yourself from the anxieties of the decision-making mode. Think about what you’re suffering from and simply do something positive about each. You’re negotiating with yourself for good mental, emotional and physical health.

Be Your Own Hero

You’ve met him: That tough negotiator who has only his own interests at heart. He asks for what he wants and wants what he asks for. His patience level is so low that requiring him to wait a minute causes a glaring stare. He has a history of negotiating success and no qualms about revealing his triumphs. He is intimidating, never having to yield for permission from a higher authority. He makes up his mind and never budges. He isn’t looking for a friend, making small talk or concerned about what you think about him. Don’t you wish you could be just like him? Or, perhaps, a kinder, gentler, but still as effective version of him? Do some of his ‘attributes’ repulse you, while others evoke your envy?

Your Negotiating with Yourself Assignment

Treat yourself as if your very life depended on your abilities to negotiate with yourself — to know and keep your own best interests in heart and mind. Don’t jump: Glide. Honor the praise FOCI, FLOW, FRUITION. What are you determined to accomplish? How are you setting up your life to prioritize and take actions that will make the day disappear with resultant proof of productivity and feelings of accomplishment? How will you celebrate yourself when you’ve reached fruition and are ready to start the cycle over and over again?

JB Shelton is a freelance journalist based in Raleigh and Oxford, North Carolina. She writes about children growing up and grownups reinventing themselves. JB teaches ‘Reinvent Yourself in Writing’ at Duke University in Durham, NC. JB Shelton may be reached at or by e-mail at [email protected].

Copyright © 2011 JB Shelton
Copyright ©   2011  The Negotiator Magazine
The Negotiator Magazine  (December 2011-January 2012)