I Tried To Negotiate. It Cost Me $1,000

I thought we were negotiating here

So, remember when Nicole and I were chatting about negotiating? Ask for more, we encouraged each other. As long as you’re polite about it, what’s the worst that could happen? You get pulled around by your ear like Oliver for having the temerity to request a rate increase? Doubtful. Odds are you will experience one of two outcomes:

  1. you ask, and the other party says no, in which case, okay, at least you asserted yourself;
  2. you ask, and the other party says yes, in which case, yay!

There is, of course, a third outcome, which is that the other party doesn’t say no. They even seem to say yes at first. And then they drop you altogether.

Which is what just happened to me.

I was approached by a client I had worked with successfully before with a similar offer at the original price point. Great! Repeat business. I conferred with another woman who also works with this client, and she encouraged me in thinking it made sense to see if they could do a little better this time around, especially since I have more demands on my time nowadays. She even advised me how to frame the request.

The client wrote back to give a tentative thumbs up. Then the client wrote back again saying their needs had changed, but that they would keep me in mind for the future.

I’m struggling against my natural instinct, which is to go down a shame spiral in which I berate myself for being an idiot. If something bad has happened, I must have done something to deserve it. What was I thinking to ask / apply / hope? I should have known better, been more self-protective.

As Homer puts it:

For the record, I cannot say for sure that it was my politely asking for more that caused my rejection. Perhaps the opportunity would have dematerialized even if I had been nothing but acquiescent and grateful. Correlation, not causation, right? Sometimes bad luck trips up good people, and good luck brightens the path of folks like Donald Trump.

More importantly, despair and self-doubt are not the right lessons to learn. Sometimes negotiation doesn’t work out — it can even, in extreme circumstances such as these, mean you lose the client or opportunity altogether. That doesn’t mean negotiating was a bad idea. It means that sometimes the worst happens, and it helps you understand that, even when the worst does happen, you can deal with it. That’s a useful thing to know about life. It’s an even more useful thing to learn about yourself.  

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