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How to Effectively Negotiate the Life You Want

Photo courtesy of Monkey Wing

Although I am not a professionally trained or paid negotiator, almost every aspect of my life involves negotiating in one form or another.  From my children to my husband and from high profile clients to the girl who cleans my house, every day I must put my negotiating skills to the test in order for my life to continue flowing optimally. Those closest to me say I have some sort of “Make it Happen Magic”, but honestly, I think most of it is just common sense.

Most of you are very likely faced with the same challenges of managing various outcomes in your day-to-day lives and, without even realizing it, you are spending a lot of time negotiating with the people that you deal with most frequently. If you often have feelings of being out of control or that things in your life just aren’t going the way you would like, take a look at your negotiating skills. They probably need some work.

There are several characteristics that make someone into a successful negotiator. As I began thinking about the situations in which my friends and family tell me to “Make the magic happen,” I pinpointed several very effective things that I do to get what I want out of the situation at hand.

When faced with a situation where negotiation is inevitable, it is important that you come to the table prepared and informed.  The more information you have, the more power you will have to negotiate effectively.  A smart and well-informed negotiator usually wins. Know what you want out of the situation, the personality of the person you will be dealing with, his or her position, and all of the possible outcomes.  Approach the deal with a win-win negotiation strategy.  If the other person also benefits from the end result – you both get what you want.

Ensure that the person you are dealing with can sense that you are very much in control of yourself. Exude confidence, and act like the end result has already been achieved, with the only thing left to do being tying up loose ends.  This works well with the win-win strategy, as you are less likely to face any resistance.

Get people to respect you because they like you and your ideas have merit.  Avoid threats, show respect for people, actively listen to any opposing arguments or positions, and don’t think in terms of ‘winners’ or ‘losers’.

Remove your personality from negotiations as much as possible.  Think of a negotiation as a business deal, and put on your professional hat, even if you are negotiating with a family member.  Take emotion out of the equation and be reasonable and willing to come to a compromise, however, do not accept sub-par solutions or offers!  Remember, you have the power to walk away from any situation in your life. If you ultimately cannot negotiate terms that meet your needs, put your Walk Away power into action. This gives people the clear message that you are a serious negotiator and that you are too smart to fool.

Effective negotiating really boils down to getting what you want out of life in a positive but firm manner.  You do not have to steamroll or take advantage of anyone in order to live the life you want.  Keep yourself out from under the steamroller by standing firm or walking quickly away from it if it seems to be headed in your direction.


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Does Your Body Language Need a Translator?

Photo courtesy of Jose Goulao

Self-awareness is a huge factor in the equation of true happiness. Part of being totally in touch with ourselves includes realizing the effects we have on others, both good and bad. To reach our ultimate life goals, it’s likely that we’re going to have many interactions with people from all different walks of life. Today’s Mindful Monday focuses on being aware of what we’re saying to others…when we’re not saying anything at all.

I recently came to terms with how much my body language was saying about me. For years, I was told by anyone within a ten mile radius of my face to “smile more!” Another phrase I heard a lot was, “I’m sorry, you must be busy. I’ll come back later.” While I used to stand firmly in denial of the image my serious facial expressions and constant fidgeting were portraying, now I finally get it. My body language was causing me to be mis-read, and the translation did not look good at all.

Most people have a number of physical gestures they perform on a regular basis without even realizing it. For many, these gestures could be sending signals to other people,  causing them to draw inaccurate conclusions. To ensure that you’re sending the right signals, try being more mindful of some of the following body language:

  • Fake smiling (or not smiling at all) - Try not to force a smile when you’re just not feeling it – people can tell you’re faking it when you only use your lip muscles, but as you begin to feel happier in life, let it show with a crinkle in your eye and a big ol’ grin!
  • Biting your lips – In psychologists’ terms, this means that you’re uncomfortable with the situation you’re in. Resist the urge to bite, lick or nibble your lips too much. Try wearing chapstick or lip balm.
  • Avoiding eye contact – Not looking someone directly in the eye makes it appear that you’re lacking in the self-confidence department.
  • Rolling your eyes – I used to do this a lot until I realized how rude and arrogant it made me look. Now, to keep the temptation in check, I widen my eyes instead of rolling them upward to avoid insulting people.
  • Picking or biting your nails – If you want to look really meek, avoid eye contact and chew on your nails. If you’d rather avoid this habit,  try to keep your hands in front of you during conversations and touch your pointer fingers together as a reminder not to pick.
  • Acknowledging distractions – I know that someone is really interested in what I’m saying when they ignore distractions when I’m talking. If you regularly turn away from conversations to attend to phone calls or other interruptions, you are sending a signal of disinterest or disrespect.

When you send strong signals to others that you are truly interested in what they have to offer (by sitting still, leaning toward them, keeping eye contact, smiling and nodding), chances are good that they are going to respond accordingly by treating you well in return.

The saying goes that you get what you give, and if what you want is respect (from yourself and others), make sure your body language bodes well for your your success.

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How to Avoid Being Bullied

Photo courtesy of puuikibeach

I’m a fairly strong-willed person. I don’t typically let people use me as a doormat, and my opinion is something I’m not terribly afraid to share. But even I have found myself in a situation where I felt like I was being bullied. It hasn’t happened too many times in my life, but when it did happen, it was quite disturbing and distressing.

Feeling victimized can happen to the best of us – at home, at work, or socially, and figuring out how to handle it can be tricky. Adult bullies are really good at mind games, and if you’re not used to their thinking, they can get pretty good at making you look the fool. Even though we typically associate bullies with middle school, some grown women never outgrew their mean girl mentality.

This type of behavior can range from mildly annoying to harrassment. As a thirty-seven year old woman, I honestly did not think bullies existed anymore until I met one first hand. It takes a lot to shake me, but when I finally realized that it wasn’t going stop, I had to figure out the right way to address it.

Things to remember if you feel like someone is trying to push you around:

  • Bullying behavior has nothing to do with you. People who try to belittle others have internal issues that need to be worked out.
  • Determine how much your life is being affected. If you feel harrassed, it’s time to stand up for yourself.
  • Approach a bully with care and remember that aggressive people are already insecure. Assert  yourself but don’t get in anyone’s face.
  • Choose somewhere private to talk and don’t get overly emotional. Bullies tend to be out of touch with their own emotions, and the situation could quickly escalate toward anger.
  • If reasoning doesn’t work, get out of the situation and do your best to remove this person from your life.

It’s important to stand up for yourself, and you can also help prevent this from happening to someone else, too. Be more conscious of excessive negative gossip as an easy way to prevent aggressive women in your group of friends from targeting someone. Change the subject if it keeps swinging around to someone else’s dirty laundry. At age thirteen or seventy-three, it’s never fun to be on the receiving end of a bully. Whether you’re the victim or friends with the bully, do what you can to put an end to mean girl behavior for good.

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Why Lending a Helping Hand Sometimes Really Bites

Photo courtesy of ninasaurusrex
One day last week, while I was taking my lunch break, I looked out my front window to see a gigantic turtle lumbering across the sidewalk in the direction of the road. The amount that I love turtles is akin to the amount that Kristen Bell loves sloths. Yeah, it’s a borderline problem. For me. For Kristen Bell? There’s no borderline about it.

Given my passion for turtles, I made the impromptu decision to cut into my jam packed work schedule in order to protect this beast from himself. Off I ran, hair akimbo and with no concern for my crocs and socks footwear.  “I will save you from death, turtle friend!” I yelled. I pit-stopped at my mom’s house and panted at her that I needed help relocating a reptile. Knowing me as well as she does, she immediately understood that we were on a Turtle Mission and we continued onward toward salvation.

This is what we had to attempt to save.
Photo courtesy of slappytheseal

Admittedly, we were suddenly skeptical, and we wondered if this guy even slightly wanted our services. Happy to see us, he did not look. We vacillated between spending our time as it had previously been judiciously and pragmatically allotted, or attempting to preserve the life of what appeared to be the last living dinosaur who seemed pretty angry that no one told him about extinction. Ultimately, we threw caution to the wind and waved good bye to precious work hours in order to save a turtle.

Anky, as I now refer to him, was not one bit interested in our “help” and he did everything to rally against us at every turn. He thrashed his razor sharp claws and snapped his long fangs at us.  His thorny tail whipped through the air in warning when we approached. If we were there to assist him, he would prefer that we would just drop dead, thank you very much.

That got me thinking about all of the resistent people in our lives who we repeatedly try to help, to no avail. They respond similarly to Anky, except in a more passive aggressive manner. They make it clear that they are “heading toward disaster.” We offer a helping hand, which is forcefully pushed away. This cycle can go on indefinitely, repeating itself ad nauseum, until we finally wake up and make the connection that these people don’t want help; they want attention, and they’ll sabotage our work days, our productivity levels, and our own level of success to get it.

Before you sap precious energy that could be better spent improving your own life, determine whether or not your assistance is needed or even really wanted. You’ll learn to sort out people who really need you from those who only want attention. Trying to help the unhelpable is a waste of time that could be spent increasing your productivity or learning something new. Your time is valuable! Use it wisely.

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How to Play When the Deck is Stacked Against You

Photo courtesy of ccarlstead

During my chiropractic appointment today, I got to talking with the good doc about the condition of my spine and the fact that most of the joints in my body are degenerating prematurely due to Ehlers Danlos Syndrome. After we briefly discussed my diagnosis, he sat down quite abruptly and said, “I can always tell within 5 minutes of meeting someone whether they are going to let their problems overtake them or if they are going to rise up and live life in spite of them. Adrienne – you are a determined person and you have a realistic attitude toward your condition. Embrace your problems and resolve to enjoy your life anyway.”

Of course, he’s right, but it is easy for anyone to lose focus when any part of your life is dragging you down and it seems like the world is against you. Regardless of the nature of your struggles, there is a lot you can do to move toward enjoying your life again, and it’s not as simple as having a good attitude! Although it can be difficult to stay motivated and engaged in life when faced with seemingly insurmountable challenges, one thing you definitely do NOT want to do is to adopt the “woe is me” approach. You might not always feel positively thrilled with the circumstances of your life, but try to steer clear of drowning in self-pity. This step alone will keep you afloat while you try to adapt your life accordingly.

Be proactive. Make a clear plan that sets out the goals you hope to achieve, whether personal, physical, emotional, or professional.  Be sure that you have specific goals and a clear plan of action that will allow you to accomplish them. Difficult times test our motivation levels, and staying focused on the end game will push you to persevere even when you really don’t want to.  Choose to spend your time with people who buoy your self-confidence and don’t bring you down further.  Eliminate “problem people” from your life and surround yourself with those who make you feel understood and encouraged during hard times.

As I have learned, sometimes life is less about trading in your cards and more about accepting the hand you have been dealt.  No matter what life has thrown at you, believe in yourself.   Have confidence that you can move through life and enjoy the awesome parts to the fullest. And, instead of battling your inner demons, hold hands with them and invite them along for the ride.

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Why Keeping a Steady Pace Always Wins the Race

Photo courtesy of M Francis McCarthy
I’m all about time management. I’ve discovered that pacing myself works very effectively and allows me to accomplish a steady amount of tasks on a regular basis without stressing my mind or my body too much.  I keep a list of actions that I need to fulfill each day of the week and I cross each item off when completed. Since I work from home, my To-Do list pops right up onto the corner of my laptop to remind me what needs to happen every day/week/month in order to meet my financial and life goals (feed the children, try not to live in squalor, etc). So, yes, my daily list even includes things like “Buy milk” and ”Do 1 load of laundry.” Breaking things down like this helps me to get more done over the course of the week, both professionally and personally.

I didn’t always work my life like this, however, and neither do most other working adults these days. Many of us have spent years attacking each day haphazardly, with few or no specific goals in mind, only to reach 5:00pm to realize that we did everything but the important stuff. Getting off-task is all too easy on any given day of the week, causing us to feel overwhelmed by all of the things we weren’t able to accomplish. Most people bite off more than they can chew regularly by overestimating the amount of time they have available during the week. Although you can’t expect the unexpected, you should leave time for it just in case it happens.

Start by making a list of everything you would like to conceivably get done by the end of the current week. Include all tasks that must be completed in order to retain your employment, and necessary life-sustaining errands like grocery shopping. List actions that will boost your professional life, and things that you need to get done in your private life in order to keep things flowing harmoniously.  Divide your list of actions into daily groupings in order from what needs to be accomplished first, to what can wait until the end of the week. You can make your workload lighter if you:

  • Delegate one item on your weekly list to someone who has the time, ability, and willingness.
  • If you’re feeling overwhelmed this week, attempt to reschedule one action for later in the month when you’re less busy.
  • Try combining two similar tasks into one or do two tasks at once wherever possible.
  • Move one thing to your “Someday” list or delete it all together if it’s just not that important.

What you’re left with should be a very do-able action list for your week, divided nicely into daily task goals. Remember that there will be days where something unexpected pops up and an item on your list doesn’t get completed. In that case, simply highlight it and move it to another day during the week where it might feasibly get accomplished.  Pace yourself, people. Life isn’t a sprint; it’s a marathon.


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Does Taking the Road Less Traveled Really Make a Difference?

Photo courtesy of Bill Ward’s Brickpile
I’m a planner.  I feel better when there’s a plan in place for just about everything.  I lay out clothes for my entire family each night before bed. I make To Do lists. I know how I’m going to spend my money before I even have it. I planned what age I wanted to be married by and when my children would be born and succeeded at achieving both. Planning makes me feel in control of things and gives me a sense of accomplishment. I don’t handle surprises well at all and my loved ones have all been forbidden from throwing me a surprise party, like, EVER.

I had planned to live happily ever after with my first husband, but, after ten years of marriage, we found ourselves separated and filing for divorce. This was definitely not in my plans, and all of the life changes that occurred afterward were enough to really throw me off balance. However, despite it not being part of the blueprint I had created for my life, I slowly adapted to the idea and life after a divorce.  Now, 2 years later, I am happily remarried to an amazing man and good friends with my first husband. It seems The Universe knew what it was doing.

What I learned from this situation is that, while it’s good to be organized and have life goals, you can’t expect the unexpected. That’s kind of the whole definition of the word, right? Whether something takes you by surprise personally, professionally, or medically, it’s how you react that counts. You can spend your whole life making and executing plans, and bravo if you accomplish everything you set out to do. However, the real life lessons come from navigating the bumps in the road along the way.

Avoiding the bumpy roads keeps us in our comfort zone but doesn’t allow for the personal growth and self-awareness gained by facing a challenging situation. What we learn about ourselves as we face seemingly insurmountable obstacles can be quite an eye-opening experience and can lead us to re-think our original plans.  The next time your life goes off the grid, don’t panic.  Sometimes, the road less traveled can take you where you should have been going all along.

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