The Art of the Deal: The Way Christians Should Negotiate
In my career, I've negotiated with people from all walks of life - NFL team owners, desperate individuals, and tons of people somewhere in the middle.
What I have seen in years of negotiating commercial real estate deals is that everyone has a different negotiation style, and frankly most people take negotiation too seriously. One Fortune 500 company called their middle managers 'deal-makers' and dramatized negotiating. Another household name retailer negotiated so hard on small deals that the other side threw up their hands and walked away. And then there was the guy who tried to bribe my client and sounded like he was about to cry or lose his temper every time we talked. Very unstable, he was.
Google negotiation and you'll get 88,000,000 results. And probably 88,000,000 opinions. I'm not here to push for my specific style or tactics - there are book shelves filled with people doing that - and a lot of it is drivel.
No, I want to explore the idea of how a follower of Jesus should negotiate. Should we be lions or lambs? Compassionate or savvy? The answer: yes.
Here are some practical considerations for negotiating as a Christian:
- Be wise as a serpent and innocent as a dove (Matthew 10:16). This is not a call to be two-faced or a crafty sand-bagger. A serpent is crafty and cunning in Biblical terms, but tends to use this knowledge and craftiness against other people. A dove is harmless but peaceful and loving. If we take the craftiness of a serpent, we open our eyes to the reality of human nature in negotiations. If we combine that craftiness with the love of Christ (the dove), we can negotiate terms with our eyes wide open and our hearts engaged with compassion for all parties - yes, especially those we negotiate against.
- Let your yes be yes and your no be no (Matthew 5:37). This verse is dealing with oaths, or people swearing by this or that. Jesus explains that straight, honest talk is the way to go. There is strength in cutting to the chase and conveying your position in a negotiation - and this can and should be done with gentle strength.
- Know when to shut your mouth (Proverbs 17:28). Some of the best negotiators I have met know the power of silence. Running your mouth is not only obnoxious, it is unwise. Proverbs 17:28 says that even a fool is considered intelligent if he keeps his mouth shut. We can say more with less.
- Remember you are a steward, not an owner (Parable of the Talents - Matthew 25). Your money is not your own, it is God's. You and I are merely stewards of His stuff - and God seeks to get good returns on His investments. In the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25, we see clearly that faithful hard work is the path to take. When we understand we are merely stewards, we can chill out while understanding the gravity of handling God's resources. He never leaves us to act alone.
We always start our church services with saying hello to those sitting around us and telling them that we aren't perfect. I think that's a really healthy practice and so let's make sure we remember that we aren't perfect. We'll negotiate like idiots sometimes. We have idiot in us. In such situations, we can recognize our imperfection, dwell on Jesus' perfection, and move forward.
Whether we are negotiating a raise, a real estate deal, or a relationship, we get to reflect the light of Christ to those around us. And the Spirit helps, never leaving us to our own devices and motives.
JFK once said, "let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate." As Christians we can negotiate diligently and smartly while tempering our behavior with the Golden Rule of treating others as you wish to be treated. While keeping the love of the Gospel front of mind, we can negotiate without fear or consternation.
So go ahead, 'deal maker.'
Photo credit: Nils Rinaldi via Flickr