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How our Childhood Favourites Affect Our Negotiation

An important focus of the workshops I give is how our wiring affects the way we approach negotiation. By “wiring” I mean the deeply ingrained preconceptions we hold of how it is appropriate for us to behave, think, or be treated in given situations.

Identifying the Biases

Why do I react the way I do?” can be a difficult question to answer. That’s the case even if I’ve already been able to reflect on the nature of my behaviour (e.g. noticing that I speak about myself in a self-deprecating manner, or don’t like asking for things for myself. Or that I end up conceding much more than I planned on in negotiations).

Addressing how our society is wired is equally important for us to understand why others react to us the way they do. For us to negotiate better we need to tackle the challenges that affect our reality, rather than talk about a blanket-definition of what negotiation is like.

Back to the Roots

In order to dig deeper into our wiring, I thought, what could be more fun than going back to the very beginning. I picked up some children’s books our parents lovingly read us to teach us about letters, animals, what families looked like and what kinds of people exist in the world. As chance would have it, I came across one of my favourite childhood books, Richard Scarry’s Best Bedtime Book Ever. My mother would read it to us over and over again in the cosiness of my parent’s bed.

The vast majority of all the characters in the book are male, even those just walking down the street. 52 out of the 64 lead characters are male, and they enjoy a variety of professions and traits. They are firemen, voyagers, farmers, photographers, barbers, handymen, and so on. They also appear in both leadership roles and teams (groups of two or more cooperating or interacting).

Doctors, Firemen, and Egyptologists!

When the lead character is female though, she is either getting married, cooking, cleaning, or living in a shoe and having so many children she doesn’t know what to do. Most interestingly she is rarely in a team, and quite often “she” has no name and is rather described as the wife or mother of another character. Otherwise, any female characters play mostly supporting roles- screaming for help or serving gentlemen.

Screaming and Pie-Baking

Mum Deserves Less!

My favorite is the story of Babykins, who runs around, tinkers with mechanics, plays instruments, and is generally quite energetic and mischievous. His dad goes off to work every day, and his mum prepares his dad 3 cups of coffee (only one for mum, because mum deserves less!) and stays home to clean and tend to the kids.

When Babykins’ brother and sister go to the shop, his brother picks out a huge tuba, which his grandmother dubs “beautiful”. When his sister picks out an equally large doll, her grandma scolds her for picking “the biggest doll in the shop”.

UGH. Why must you want things??

Why go for the $1 instrument when you can go for the $8 one??

The Message is Clear

What we learn from thousands of subconscious messages like these, is that we deserve less, that we are able to do less, that we are supporting actresses rather than influencers. That asking or thinking big is undesirable and aggravating. Of course, if you had asked me what messages appeared in my beloved nursery rhyme book I would remember none of this, as I must have been 5 at most when my mother last read it to us.

But in a very Clockwork-Orange-esque manner, these messages stick hard and they stick where we can’t see them.

How we Negotiate

When we enter a negotiation, we enter it with that same hard wiring. Even if we were somehow spared these damaging messages in our childhood, or are aware enough to work against them- there is a very good chance the person we are negotiating with is not. This affects the power dynamics of the negotiation, the options put on the table, and therefore the correct strategies we need to use to achieve successful outcomes!

We might unnecessarily be getting much less than we could by assuming that more is simply not possible (or deserved). We might avoid sounding our opinions even though they are essential for better outcomes. Or we might be waiting for some outside authority to take the lead and set the agenda when really there is no reason for us not to do that ourselves!

What can be done?

The good news is if you’re reading this you are half-way through step one! Developing a better understanding of the challenges we face, even acknowledging they exist, is the first step towards addressing them better. Start paying attention to how you behave and what reactions you get, and reconsidering the outcomes of negotiations you participate in.

In the workshops, I dig deeper into ways you can better prepare for negotiations, and ways you can use your own natural traits as resources for negotiating better.

Interested in participating in a workshop? The next online workshop will take place on July 11th-12th! Feel free to contact me at for more details!

See you next post!

Yasmine Guerin

Founder of Negotiatress

Originally posted on June 14, 2020 by Negotiatress




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