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  • Coach Elizabeth Brink

When a Request Turns Into a Negotiation

Updated: Dec 8, 2022


DISCLAIMER: negotiating is not always an option or a good idea, and sometimes it is unsafe. Being able to negotiate is a privilege that MANY people do not have.


Additionally, there are a LOT of societal rules of engagement that, frankly, are sexist, ableist, and racist. It isn't your fault that you don't have the power to initiate change that supports you.


ne·go·ti·a·tion

/nəˌɡōSHēˈāSH(ə)n/

a discussion aimed at reaching an agreement


The narratives we tell ourselves reveal perspectives we are holding about ourselves and others. Some opinions of ourselves keep us from getting our needs met, and moments of request may reveal some of our greatest insights around our story of worthiness.


For example, if we need clear instructions in writing from our manager but tell ourselves we are difficult if we ask too many questions, then we may not get that need met. For one of my ADHD clients, this has a big impact on her work. However, the impact can often bleed into other areas of our lives. When our needs are consistently violated, we risk building resentment and burning out.


Growing up, I learned how to be persuasive in order to get my needs met. I channeled all of that "bossiness" and "too direct" communication into aggressive persuasive speech. I carried this style into my career and found it incredibly frustrating to constantly fail at getting my way. I thought I was negotiating, but negotiation and persuasion are not the same things.


The goal of persuasion is to convince.

The goal of negotiation is to collaborate.


Persuasion is a tool you may use in a negotiation, but if it's your only tool, you may end up dissatisfied and isolated. Many neurodivergent folks' needs were ignored, dismissed, or criticized as a child causing them to default to persuasion rather than negotiation skills now.


Trying to persuade someone will eventually feel like an argument. It ends with someone 'giving in,' which is not a negotiation.


For others, negotiation was not tolerated by caregivers and seen as a sign of disrespect. Many heard things like, "this is not a negotiation... it's my way of the highway." Either way, the lack of modeling constructive discussion with give-and-take in our childhood homes has led to confusion, stress, and a lack of agency for us as adults.


Many of us struggle with the line between manipulation, confrontation, a request, and a negotiation.


Negotiations are conversations.

These conversations may feel charged, so the more you prepare, the better you'll feel during and after. Here are some steps to work through in preparing to negotiate. There is no need to follow every step fully; it's meant as a framework for reflection.


The most time you'll spend on a negotiation is preparing for it.


1. Know your audience.

  • Starting with the focus away from you helps set the tone for evaluating your goals for the conversation.

  • Is negotiation possible?

  • What will the other party need in order for the conversation to go well?

  • Request the conversation – schedule it, if needed. Don't just launch into it on the fly and definitely not at night.

  • Try to humanize the other party in your mind. If you go in imagining them as the enemy, chances are you'll get worked up and struggle to find a resolution or leave it feeling confident you said what you needed. To reiterate seeing them as human is always important, but the point here is to help YOU regulate your emotions in hard conversations.

2. Know your goals.

  • What do you want?

  • What do you really need?

  • Why is this important now?

  • What is your ideal outcome? Dream big here!

  • What would be an acceptable outcome?

  • What will be possible if this need is met?

  • How will you feel if this need is met? Envision a future where you're more satisfied by the outcome of this discussion. Hold onto that!

3. Know what you don't want.

  • What outcomes do you know for sure are a no-go for you?

  • How will you know a counter-option is not what you want?

  • Why is it important that this is NOT the outcome?

  • What impact could this outcome have?

4. Envision the conversation.

  • Practice what you want to say. Write it out and practice it several times aloud. It's important for your brain that you speak the words. This will help with recall when cortisol and adrenaline are pumping or you get distracted.

  • Think about how you want to feel during the conversation – what will help you stay centered or regulate?

  • What questions do you have?

  • What questions might they have?

  • Practice NOT deciding – you don't have to come to an agreement after one conversation. Sometimes space is necessary to think it through and finalize things later.

  • Give yourself permission to pause the discussion for a later date– but set the date. Don't leave the other person hanging.

5. Show up and be yourself.

  • Do all the things that help you feel at your best – sleep, hydrate, eat, text your best friend.

  • BELIEVE you can come to an agreement. It doesn't mean you will, but setting your mind on a positive outcome will influence your mood in the conversation.

6. After the negotiation

  • Complete the stress response cycle! Regardless of the outcome, chances are your body has some stress to burn off.

  • Be kind to yourself. You may remember important things later or regret something. Remember – most things are not set in stone after one conversation.

  • Journal, mind map, or dictate your impressions from the conversation as soon as possible. Our memories are unreliable (this goes for everyone, not just ADHDers). The sooner you capture your impressions, the better they'll be for checking back with later.

Side note: Plan to record the discussion, if possible. If in-person, ask permission as an accommodation for your memory. If online or phone, you can use a tool like Otter.ai to record and transcribe to review later and there's no need for consent.


The Key Takeaways

  1. Negotiating is a skill. You can develop it with practice.

  2. Planning and practicing is a great way to calm your nerves in the moment.

  3. You are not required to negotiate, and sometimes it may be counterproductive to do so. Seek advice and trust your gut.


How does your ADHD impact you in negotiations? What helps you negotiate for what you need?


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