Negotiating is an option when faced with a task that you don’t want to do or don’t want to allocate significant time to.

It’s not as time-effective as saying no, since you’ll still have to do some of the task, but it’s much more acceptable to bosses and customers. You can negotiate to:

  • only do part of it
  • do it later
  • only spend a certain amount of time on it
  • only do a certain level of quality
  • be paid for it
  • get resources to help do it
  • do it instead of something else
  • delay another job because of it

You shouldn’t negotiate over everything, all the time. That would be tiresome and annoy everyone else! But it’s an option to use when larger tasks come up.

And it all adds up. If you negotiate once a week, and it saves you 3 hours of work by doing so, that’s 50×3= 150 hours a year. That’s more than three working weeks a year! How would you like to be given an extra 3 weeks of completely clear time to use on whatever you want? Would that move you nearer to your goals?

Negotiating rule 1: get the other person to open first. When do they want it by? How much of your time do they think they’ll need? What resources can they offer in order to help you do it? What other task are they prepared to sacrifice in order to have this one?

Negotiating rule 2: ask for more than you expect to get. If you don’t ask you don’t get! You won’t know unless you try.

Negotiating rule 3: rather than just giving in, trade. If you could do this for me then I could do yours quicker / spend a bit more time on your task is much better than alright I’ll do it by Wednesday / give up my weekend. Trading looks better and also gets you something back in return.

Negotiating rule 4: when you don’t want to do something: consider negotiating instead of saying Yes alright then, or No I won’t do it. The first is too weak, the second is too aggressive. In both cases you’ll come out better if you negotiate. If you really don’t want to do it then ask for a lot, and if they won’t give it to you then it’s they that have effectively said no, not you.

Negotiating rule 5: always be nice. It’s you that has to negotiate due to your own diary / level of work. It’s not their fault in any way. They are still your friend.