“I’m a people pleaser!” admitted one of our clients during a recent negotiation training we did for them. The training program started more like a negotiation support group, but the participant wasn’t alone. Many people in the room felt the same way, and they struggled with negotiating while desiring to please.
People pleasers tend to confuse pleasing people with kindness. They also tend to believe that negotiators aren’t kind. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Skilled negotiators can be whatever they need to be to serve the negotiation. That’s not to imply there aren’t mean or, dare I say, bully negotiators. There are. The chameleon-like qualities of a skilled negotiator should also not be misinterpreted as disingenuous. Instead, I’ve found that most skilled negotiators are kind, empathetic, and collaborative — but can be aggressive and competitive when needed.
That’s good news for people pleasers. It means that you can be you, but you should also understand when you need to change and adapt to the situation. Let’s look at two of the most common traits of people pleasers and highlight how those traits can be adjusted to help at the negotiating table.
You can’t say no.
We might as well start with the biggest hurdle for many people pleasers: pushing back on requests. Difficulty with saying “no” usually leads to giving in and unconditional concessions at the negotiating table.
For many people pleasers, discomfort with “no” stems from their desire to be accepted and liked. They hope that saying “yes” to everything will win over the other side and give them their needed validation. Unfortunately, when we don’t push back, we rarely get what we want, and the desired validation remains elusive.
This habit will probably be the hardest to break. To begin, you don’t need to jump into the deep end by saying “no” to everything. Instead, lean into your propensity to say “yes,” but say it with conditions. The next time you’re asked to do something, think of one thing you want or need that would be appropriate to ask for, then make that condition part of your “yes.”
For example, suppose you’re asked to complete something ahead of a deadline. Think about what you need to make that happen so that it’s not a burden on you. Would reshuffling priorities give you more time? Would more assistance on the project help? Once you’ve decided what would be useful, offer “yes” with that condition: “If you can give me someone to help on the project, then I’ll be able to get this done sooner.” In this manner, you didn’t say “no”; instead, you told them what you need in order to say “yes.”
You prefer harmony over conflict.
Conflict is the other major hurdle for a people pleaser. Avoiding conflict means that you’ll struggle to get what you need and create situations that worsen over time.
When we’re driven by the need for validation, we tend to avoid conflict. When you rely solely on an outsider’s validation, you derive confidence from them instead of from within yourself. As a negotiator, confidence in yourself and your approach makes you less likely to be intimidated or taken advantage of.
The first step to developing your confidence is through preparation. Examining the power you have, your needs, their needs, and the issues at hand will help you feel more prepared when the negotiation happens. You can go even further by rehearsing what you say, how you’ll answer tough questions, etc. All of which will build your confidence.
The next step is being more comfortable with the inevitable conflict during a negotiation. Conflict is merely an opportunity to understand. It’s literally a signpost that reads, “We see things differently.” Instead of running away from the conflict, think of that signpost as an opportunity to ask, “Why do we see things differently?” and “How did you come to that viewpoint?” This will help you to better understand the conflict and put it in a productive context. More often than not, you’ll discover the conflict isn’t personal, but rather an issue that needs to be worked through to get to a deal.
It’s not easy to change, but sometimes all it takes is looking at the world through a different lens to adjust your perspective. Through that lens, change gets a little easier. So, to my people-pleaser friends, it’s OK to be you, but with some small adjustments, you can please and get great deals.
We Can Help You Please People and Get Great Deals.
Does your team struggle with negotiating while desiring to please? If so, they’re likely making unconditional concessions while struggling to get what they need from a deal. We can help! Draw on Scotwork’s nearly 50 years of real-world negotiating experience to get better deals, save time, and create value that preserves and strengthens relationships. Partner with one of our advisers to ensure you have the optimum view of your deal.