How to ask for, and get, more than you think you want.

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Can I Ask You a Question?

From time to time, clients ask me for ‘advice’ on a (money) negotiation question. I understand why, of course, when something is on our mind, we want to talk it through, maybe seek advice, or commiseration about the unfairness. We know that we don’t see a clear way forward and we want answers.

On the other hand, I feel like I am not really the ‘money’ person (nor the advice-giving person when it comes to clients). Sometimes I don’t offer advice at all-that isn’t what coaching is, but sometimes it’s helpful to discuss specifics to open up a space for some new thinking.

If I do make suggestions, I might go so far as tell them what I would do, or what I did in a previous situation, but that always with a very large caveat that it’s to stimulate ideas, or it comes from my perspective or experience, and they should take or leave anything I offer.

I tell them…

Don’t Do What I Would Do!

I always make it clear that my priorities and preferences, and what lights me up is not going to be the same for them. I’m not generally someone who has made a big deal out of salary negotiations, or consultancy fees. That doesn’t mean I don’t negotiate; I remember one project negotiation that resulted in a £300 million adjustment in unprecedented circumstances.

No-one has ever asked for a re-negotiation at this point!

And, when it comes to clients, I’ve often been surprised by what they report back after our conversations. It happened again this morning (hence me posting this), when a client got a 40% increase on an offer he was pretty sure, when we spoke yesterday, was set in stone.

Wisdom is personal, and the ‘right’ answer is the one that feels right for you.

Wisdom Often Whispers

The biggest thing I listen for when my clients ask for ‘advice’ like this, is what is getting in the way of them hearing their own answer.

It can feel as if ‘negotiation’ is a tactical game, but I don’t know how true that is. In cases like the phone call this morning, a 40% increase on an offer was not a result of tactics (I thought my clients response was, at best, clunky). I think it’s a result of being present to the situation and being willing to allow a solution to present itself without getting personal.

But surely everything is personal?

Well there’s personal and personal.

You might believe that everything is personal to you, and that might be different to my perspective on ‘personal’.. The way I mean it here is to distinguish what is showing up as noise, as ego, maybe righteousness, anger, or maybe the opposite-shame or worthlessness. And to be able to listen through that, or set it aside, to tune in to the voice that has the feel of the impersonal.

My words may not be very elegant here but you’ll know it when you hear it.

What Do You Want to Do?

Once we’ve turned down the volume a bit on the background noise, it’s easier to hear the answer to the question,

What do you want to do here?

If you’ve read this far, the answer to that question will, more than likely, just pop right up, and, if not, then give it a minute. Or a few minutes, or hours, or even days if that’s what it takes.

That doesn’t mean that’s what will roll out, of course, but it means your next action is obvious.

And my experience, for myself and with clients, is that it’s incredibly common to get what you ask for, or to get something better than you asked for; for the pieces to align without much seeming effort or stress on your part.

And if not, I don’t lean to, as my mother used to say, ‘it’s not meant to be’, but I do lean to ‘there are so many more opportunities we couldn’t possibly take advantage of in a million lifetimes’.

Go play with them!

With love,


Cathy Presland

Here to help with leadership and impact. I have lots of free resources here, including regular free seminars, if you’d like to explore more deeply or join a conversation.

Originally published at on January 29, 2021.

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