The very complex process of evaluating your priorities, capabilities, and commitments can take different forms. However you choose to approach the process, consider the following steps on your way to a renegotiated situation that leaves all parties whole and able to move forward. You may wish to identify a situation you are unlikely, or unwilling, to complete as originally designed as you read through the following steps.
Identify Your Need
Some people are reluctant to realize when a change is needed. Are you continuing to uphold awkward and painful agreements long after they could have been renegotiated? Perhaps you feel particularly committed to a person, project, or outcome? In this stage, coming to terms with what is authentically working or not working for you is most important. Throw away any notions that what works for others should work for you. Instead, identify your true needs. You may want to ask yourself the following questions:
- What about this situation is not working for me?
- How important is it, really?
- What aspects are working and need to be preserved?
- What needs to change?
Connect to the Broader Context
Where, in the larger system, does this particular issue exist? Any one promise is usually nested within several layers or levels of commitments. You want to understand the framework for your negotiation before you begin planning how to work through the issue. There is a considerable choice around where we choose to renegotiate most situations. The players and issues may change dramatically as you move between layers. Take time to reflect on your situation from an objective perspective. Try one or more of the following:
- Take a step back from the situation by removing yourself physically. Take a walk, a shower, or go somewhere you can think clearly.
- Narrate the situation as if you were describing the story line of a movie about someone else. What is the context for the issues? Try variations of the story to find one that is useful as a framework for objectively understanding what is happening in this situation.
- Consider others you have known in similar situations. How is your context different? Compare and contrast to help illuminate your situation.
- Ask a friend, trusted advisor, or coach to help you see the different components of this situation as you talk through it.
Cultivate an Understanding of Others’ Perspectives
A successful renegotiation leaves all parties respected and clear on the plans. To be effective in this role, understand what is important to other people—their goals, aspirations and worries—in relation to the situation so that you can connect with their purposes and respect them. List what you know about the others involved and how you can preserve what is most important to them while changes are underway. You may worry about disappointing others during this process; however, you are much more likely to create a solution that everyone can appreciate when you account for others’ needs up front.
Given what you know about this situation, create a range of options from which to choose. The first two that most likely occurred to you—do what you agreed to do, or disappoint others—are not the only options. Consider the following questions to help you generate a series of options best suited to the situation.
- What would you normally do in a situation like this? What is the opposite of what you would normally do?
- What have you always wanted to do, but never thought you could?
- What are the safest options? What are the riskiest?
- What gets everyone taken care of, including you?
- What would a leader you admire consider doing in a situation like this?
- If you were being true to yourself, what would you do?
Before entering into a renegotiation conversation, take time to prepare yourself. A successful renegotiation is best done when you are calm, rested, and clear about what is most important to you. Create the space you are comfortable functioning in by selecting the meeting time and location. Prepare notes on the options you will propose if you need them, and alternatives if your proposals are not accepted.
Knowing you are prepared, you can allow yourself to be present in the moment and be attentive to what is happening during the renegotiation. This added awareness of the current interaction is a powerful ally in creating a real solution to the issue. To the extent possible, it is best to work with, rather than against, those involved in the negotiation.
Propose and Agree
Before offering potential solutions, frame the situation as you understand it. Describe the larger picture, what you want to change, and what you see as important to others. Express what you want to do, or what you need others to do. Do not spend much time justifying what you need and want. Just ask for it. If questioned about your reasons, then explain more. Agree on plans and next steps. What will happen as the result of your request? Track and confirm who will do what by when.
Recognize that you found a creative way to address a difficult situation and give thanks to those who accommodated your needs. Also take a little time to appreciate yourself for creating the circumstances that support what you really want and need in your life. I have personally found that the process of renegotiation, although difficult, provides me with greater clarity about my strengths and boundaries and offers me the chance to wholeheartedly commit to the responsibilities I retain.
Using This Lesson In Your Life
If we listen, we receive many hints from our body, mind, or other people who tell us it is time to stop doing all the things we think we must do. This is your cue to start practicing graceful renegotiation – for your benefit as well as for those around you.
In the following weeks, notice what signs you are receiving from yourself and others. Are there some tasks you feel compelled or driven to do even though they drain you of energy and joy? Identify a handful of items you would like to stop doing. Then go to work on renegotiating at least one.
We’d love to hear your success or help you troubleshoot any challenge you faced using this process.