How do you Win at Negotiation? Don’t Play to Win

Published on May 19, 2021

That sounds counterintuitive, doesn’t it? Not exactly, if you ask Christine McKay, founder of Venn Negotiation, and host of In the Venn Zone podcast. McKay is a world authority on, you guessed it, negotiation. And she was a recent guest on the Grit Daily Like a Boss podcast. Her decades of experience and success in the field revealed an interesting insight.

The current wisdom around negotiation is that it’s successful if one party wins and the other loses. Or, if both parties embrace a scarcity mindset and both “leave something on the table.” McKay vehemently counters that line of thinking, “That’s a terrible deal! A great deal happens when everyone walks away from the table saying, ‘That’s a great deal.’ You can’t win a relationship – but you can get more value out of it.”

Guts & grit

There’s another facet to McKay that she has shared publicly but few people know. “Having gone from living in the back of my car to sitting in the Board room with half of the Fortune 500 and everything in between gives me a unique perspective.” Like many entrepreneurs, a common theme of every founder’s story is the grit they mustered to overcome hardship. And, as you often hear on a podcast, founders open up and offer their listeners a glimpse into vulnerability.

McKay has a rags to riches story. Although she “wouldn’t wish the horrible experiences I’ve had on my worst enemy, they have shaped me. It took me a long time to love myself. And it is the sum of my experiences that have made me who I am.” She was living in the back of her car with her first child, and pregnant with her second. At that time, she was only 23 and recalls the exchange she had with the welfare officer. When asked what she planned to do next, she replied, “Get an MBA from Harvard.”

Talk about a big, hairy, audacious goal. As seemingly impossible and fanciful as that goal sounds, it’s exactly what she did. Spanning just over a decade, she worked her way through community college and scored a 4.0. Along the way, she divorced an abusive husband, raised three daughters, and secured a full ride to Harvard Business School. Within eleven years – hard years at that – she went from sleeping in the back of an old car to flying first class internationally, and fully reclined.

The art of negotiation

Her own podcast and conversations on Clubhouse shine light on some of the famous (and infamous) negotiations by celebrities and household names. Whether it’s divorce, disputes between co-founders, or other business disentanglements, McKay is there. She represents the small and midsize businesses to help make their negotiations against the “big guys” feel more like a fair fight. Her expertise helps level the playing field.

When asked for her best negotiation tip, her advice was simple and clear. “Prepare,” she said, “Seventy percent of every negotiation should go into researching who you are negotiating with. You need to figure out what they want out of it so that you can aim for overlap. That’s the Venn zone.”

Get the podcast

With her new book, “Why Not Ask?” coming out soon, along with her masterclass on negotiation, her own “In the Venn Zone” podcast, and her business, McKay has her hands full. But she took the time to visit Grit Daily and guest on our Like a Boss podcast. To hear more of her insights and tips on negotiation, tune into the podcast below.

Dr. Loralyn Mears is a Columnists and Podcast host at Grit Daily. She is a content marketer, founder of the HRtech startup, STEERus, specializing in personalized training and coaching in soft skills. In her consultancy practice, she helps companies with their go-to-market strategies, content and more. Loralyn spent over a decade playing with mosquito DNA, got her PhD, decided she would rather market science than be at the bench and has never looked back. Along the way, she’s wined and dined her way around the globe. She's authored two books, including the 2018 Gold Medal Indie Book award-winning, One Sip At a Time: a Memoir and the hard science thriller, "The Battle for Humanity: How Science Saved Us."  Check out Grit Daily's LIKE A BOSS podcast which features fascinating guests with snappy insights!

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