• Mastering Your Story

    Mastering Your Story for Successful Negotiations

    This is a guest blog post by FX Risk Consultant Pascale Hansen.

    By mastering your story and your emotions in combination with the questions outlined in Pascale’s Mastering your Mindset For Successful Negotiations post, you’ll be putting yourself in a far better position to negotiate a win-win outcome.

    Our emotions are the driving force behind our accomplishments. Human beings are capable of incredible acts of courage because of love, fear, passion and desire. The wish to feel loved and appreciated can lead to extraordinary accomplishments. Yet, even though people may recognize the importance of emotions, it is common for them to feel that they have no control over them.

    We’ve all said that someone “makes us mad” or “pushes our buttons” but how can someone else make you feel an emotion that you don’t want to experience? Emotions are in your heart and in your mind; they are part of you and not someone else.

    Emotions control and regulate how we process information and what we do with that information, how we act. That is, emotions are a higher function of the brain that organizes what we pay attention to, what it means, and what to do about it. There is a series of steps by which emotions regulate our thinking and our behaviour.

    First, something happens, we see and hear something, witness an event and then we focus on it. Once we focus on something we immediately assign an emotional meaning to it: is it good or bad? We tell ourselves a story. Almost simultaneously our physiology changes according to whether the meaning is positive or negative. Then we choose what emotional reaction we will have. Will it be fear, anger, shame, disgust, joy or surprise?

    Next, we decide what action to take depending on the emotion that prevails. If it’s sadness we may cry, if it’s anger we may fight etc.

    The same event can trigger a different focus, meaning or emotion depending on the individual and therefore, it can create a different reaction for each person. Most people don’t experience a broad range of emotions in their lives.  Instead, they are limited to a few which they experience over and over again.

    Emotions pervade all mental functions and create meaning in life. Emotion and meaning are created by the same processes, which is why thought and emotion are by nature inseparable. So, it follows logically that we can control our emotions by having the thoughts we want to experience.

    Mastering Your Story

    If we take control of our stories they won’t control us. Great negotiators are able to influence their emotions during negotiations. So, if you want to improve your negotiation skills, you have to slow down and think before you act or speak.

    Abandon your absolute certainty by distinguishing between hard facts and your story. Challenge your story.

    Ask: “What evidence do I have to support this story?” Separate fact from your story by focusing on behaviour. Can you see or hear this thing you’re calling a fact?

    Watch for Clever Stories.

    We are all great at coming up with explanations about our behaviour that serve us well. Either the stories serve us well and propel us in a healthy direction or they’re inaccurate and help justify our current behaviour. These imaginative and self-serving stories are referred to as “clever stories”. They’re clever because they allow us to feel good about behaving badly. They can also make us feel good about behaving badly even when we’re getting bad results.

    When we feel the need to justify our ineffective behaviour we tend to tell ourselves predictable stories. Learn the three stories: Victim, Villain and Helpless and how to counteract them and you can take control of your emotional life. It’s very easy to become a victim to the emotions you’re predisposed to and have them wash over you at crucial times such as in the middle of a negotiation.

    Victim Stories

    Victim stories make us out to be innocent sufferers. We exaggerate our own innocence.  The theme is always the same, the other person is bad, wrong or stupid and we are good, right or brilliant. Other people do bad or stupid things, and we suffer as a result.

    When you tell a victim story, you ignore the role you played in the problem. You tell your story in a way that judiciously avoids whatever you have done (or neglected to do) that may have contributed to the problem.

    Villain Stories

    With villain stories, we turn normal, decent people into villains. We impute bad motive and then tell everyone about the evils of the other person as if we’re doing the world a favour.

    For example, we describe a boss who is zealous about quality as a control freak. When our spouse is upset that we didn’t keep a commitment, then we see him or her as being inflexible and stubborn. We overemphasize the assumed motives or the grossest incompetence and ignore any possible good or neutral intentions a person may have.

    When you notice yourself telling victim and villain stories – catch them for what they are: unfair caricatures. It’s a double standard we start to use when our emotions are out of control.

    Helpless Stories

    When we use helpless stories, we make ourselves out to be powerless to do anything healthy or helpful. We convince ourselves that there are no alternatives other than the action we are about to take.

    While Victim & Villain stories look back to explain why we’re in the situation we’re in, helpless stories look forward explaining why we can’t do anything to change our situation.

    Tell A Useful Story

    Once you notice yourself telling a clever story, stop and decide to tell a useful story.  Invest in mastering your story.

    A useful story is a story that creates emotions that lead to healthy actions – such as dialogue. And what transforms a clever story into a useful one? The rest of the story. That’s because clever stories all have one characteristic in common: they are incomplete.

    Clever stories omit crucial information about us, about others and about our options. Only by including all of these essential details can clever stories be transformed into useful ones. And useful stories from someone who has mastered their personal story, and intentionally adopted a win-win mindset, paves the way for a golden outcome to any negotiation.

    As an international payments and foreign currency risk consultant at Western Union Business Solutions in Vancouver, Pascale Hansen helps companies improve cash flow, manage risk, and seize global market opportunities using customized currency risk management solutions.



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