How Win-win Negotiation Skills Change my Inner Dialogue and Enhance my Mental Health

At the negotiation table, all parties hope to get their needs and wants fulfilled and satisfactorily walk away without jeopardizing their existing relationships. In more ideal cases, their current relationships are elevated to new highs.

Similarly, when my mind and heart are negotiating, the same principle of negotiation applies here. My mind hopes to get her intellectual and spiritual needs fulfilled through the completion of cognitively challenging tasks that require a great dose of rationality. On the other hand, my heart is fighting for my attention to fulfill her needs for love, understanding and affirmation through intimacy and open, assuring communication. Both mind and heart fight with one another for my time. When there’s a relationship breakdown between these two, I am broken apart, sinking deep in dilemma and crying in pain as if I am gasping for air in a pool with my legs restrained by devil hands of algae. If I manage to think out of the box by refocusing on my life purpose to find a way of shooting two birds with one stone, it will be a win-win outcome. For example, I incorporate what I have learnt from my PhD research in my teaching. I have always been a fan of metaphor as you can see that my blog is laden with evidences of metaphor. Preparing a PhD proposal about metaphor and teaching my students about the world-changing, persuasive power of metaphor is an attractive two-in-one deal when I receive great appreciation for my teaching performance, hopefully.

During negotiation, when one of the parties has a need that is impossible to fulfilled by anyone at the table, it’s time to bring in a third party for expertise and resources which can be obtained only through outsourcing. To ensure that everyone is happy, we have to make sure that the third party has her share of the pie.

When I juggle between PhD research and work, there are times when what my mind and/or heart need cannot be sourced from whatever I have been doing diligently. Even after spending time with my loved ones, still I feel incomplete and inferior. That’s when I bring in a third party or other parties by writing blog articles for a group of virtual audience to get my mind organised and my heart recharged while reading my comforting comment thread. Another possibility is to listen to God at the back of my mind within the deepest chamber of my heart.

For stepping in for a negotiation, all parties should have three things well-planned and decided upon beforehand. They are the opening offer (the first offer at negotiation), the target point (the best offer you have been dreaming of) and the resistance point ( the worst offer you can accept and anything worse will mean walking out of the negotiation for other alternatives).

In terms of balancing the gravitational pull between my mind and heart, I keep in mind the details about my opening offer, target point and resistance point by writing them down somewhere I can easily see. For example, when I want to ensure the teaching quality of our Department’s English Camp by scrutinizing my students’ brainstorming sheets (teaching plans) while taking care of our partnership, I set my opening offer by telling them when they should email me their teaching ideas. There will be always late submissions so in this case, I always extend the submission period for one more week, which is my target point based on the timeline for my camp preparation. Luckily, so far, things have not been very ugly to the extent that we reach my resistance point.

During negotiation, all parties are encouraged to make side deals in order to enlarge the pie instead of resorting to the pie-slicing method.

At my workplace, some colleagues are my close friend. Sometimes, I am entrusted by an appreciative eye to take charge of a job task or leading role. At other times, I make the first step to take up a new, temporary job responsibility. When I go all out for these duties, they can be forms of side deals I put on the negotiation table for others’ convenience or organizational success. Most of the times, I also earn some side deals along the way. They can be blossoming friendship that has just been born through working together or newly learnt skill sets and job satisfaction that keep the ball rolling and my bank account being credited with continuous flow of money. There were times when I had the thought of tendering my resignation due to life dilemma. However, a spiritual family member has shared a lovely aphorism. It sounds like this in Chinese: Our life has no ownership rights, but only user’s rights. This has woken me out of my ignorance. It’s true that I aspire to own more time to work on obtaining my PhD title as well as spend time on my all-time favourite hobby, blogging. However, I have learned that I am never the owner of time, but its user in fact. Time is never enough for everyone. For a terminally ill patient, a few months to spend life fruitfully is the value of time; for a couple filing for divorce, a few hours of open communication is the value of time; for a student struggling in writing answers for her life-changing exam, a few minutes of writing is the value of time; for a car accident victim, a few seconds to avoid collision is the value of time. We just need to live every day of our life meaningfully and purposefully. Life is fragile and unpredictable. Work hard for the souls you love and find value in all these tiny sacrifices while you are still breathing. As you sow, you shall reap. Moreover, side-deals can give small wins along the way for maintained motivation and persistence on the far-stretched path of PhD enlightenment.

There are negotiation cases whereby all parties are satisfied with whatever they are gaining and see their case as a win-win, happily ever after ending when in fact there are hidden resources more than they’ve ever imagined that are left untouched on the table. To have the magic eye to see the hidden resources, one needs positive framing. It’s a kind of mindset that one should bring to the negotiation table by believing firmly that there is an abundance of resources to be uncovered and enjoyed by all. With this firmly held belief, one can navigate through the negotiation with great flexibility for a creative solution that is based on everyone’s common ground and yet is a fulfilling form of gains for all.

When I am burnt out or at the bottleneck while buried under piles and piles of work and research duty, it is high time for me to frame and reframe the situation differently, most importantly, positively in order to gain the most out of it, no matter how hopeless it may seem. I am part of the human race, the most brilliant herd of countless species. There’s no doubt that there can be a way for me to witness the on-going life scene through the most breathtaking camera filter. When things do not work my way, I will work around it to find back my path and keep going.

Writer’s note: For the past few weeks, I have been self-harming and crying from time to time. It is always worse during pre-menstrual period. The accompanying headache makes it worse. Gladly, the depressing spirits always subside after some physical workout and doses of love. Caffeine addiction aggravates the pain. Recently, I have got to know more about Pu-Er tea and am going to try it as my caffeine substitute. The inspiration for writing this post is sourced from this difficult adjustment period whereby I am leading the course titled “Language for Negotiation and Persuasion” for the first time.

On a side note, I turned my blog into private mode for more than one month as I was mentally struggling with privacy-related issues. Now, I feel that blogging is an essential form of escape to keep my schizophrenic self insane so I’m back!

Photo by Carl Attard on

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