Monopoly Taught Me How To Negotiate: Part One

Photo by Chuttersnap on Unsplash

It was 2 am, and the dice was firmly clasped in my hand. As I sat across the table from my opponent (my younger brother), I attempted to channel a posture of serenity, as if to say to him, ‘I’ve got you’.

My bluff was to no avail. We both knew this exchange was nearing its end. A series of bad rolls coupled with a one-way ticket to jail led to the foreclosures of all my properties. A few rounds later, bankruptcy.

I would not consider my brother an elite strategist, yet he manages to best me time and time again. For the life of me, I can not decipher how. I’ve got a degree in Economics for goodness sake.

As I staggered up the stairs and clambered into bed, two seemingly apparent contemplations quickly surfaced. First, I should have never bought Piccadilly Circus, it was a useless money pit. The latter and more flagrant thought was;

I need to learn how to negotiate.

My partner doesn’t shy away from expressing her disinterest in Monopoly. Convinced that the game serves nothing more than to divulge the worst in people, she would refuse to participate when it’s being played at social functions.

I respect her sentiments and actually agree with her for the most part. However, I have come to view “Monopoly” as a nested opportunity to hone one’s negotiation skills. An attribute paramount in today’s society.

The mere mention of the word “negotiation” conjures up images of high-profile, aristocratic individuals finalizing some kind of deal. It is the CEO of Dell Technologies shaking hands with the Managing Director of another Fortune 500 company. It is the European Commissioner, Jean-Claude Juncker, signing new legislation for all EU member countries.

For me, it’s the more innocent memory of my mother haggling with the local fishmonger at Brixton Market — You would think the pair could agree on a reasonable price for Tilapia.

In evolutionary biology, it is reported that our ancestors buttressed their physical prowess, needed to stave off attacks from wild animals, with more sophisticated elements such as bargaining. Negotiation allowed them to overcome stressors that may have been more intellectual in kind, thus bolstering their chances of survival.

So, discard the false assumption that negotiation is limited to professions with a tyrannical nature such as debt-collectors, politicians, and business owners. It is a phenomenon that has been hard-wired into our DNA and occurs in all facets of human interaction. Hence we must be savvy to its rules and become adept players at the game.

Not Monopoly, but rather the game of life.

The Outer Circle

Wouldn’t it be nice if you did not have to engage in painstaking discourse about schedules or contract terms? Or speak to our boss about increasing our purse to reflect the long hours we’ve put in at work.

Sadly, escapism is not possible for the vast majority of us, and these conversations are unavoidable. However, the caveat lies in how we go about handling negotiations in this exterior playground.

Please tell me you have watched the American legal drama “Suits” on HBO. Do not play yourself!

The TV-series closely follows two prolific “lawyers”, who spend countless episodes, tackling cases and securing monumental deals. Mike Ross is a college dropout who finagles his way into working for Harvey Specter at one of the most illustrious law firms in New York City.

New York City, the dynasty of high-ticketed trades and big-time closers. It could not be crafted any better.

As I delved deeper into the show, I discovered a distinct trait that was synonymous with exceptional negotiators. The lead protagonist, Harvey Specter, had the uncanny ability to coerce counterparties into settling by threatening to “Walk Away” from the table. Even when faced with improbable odds, this method proved effective in negotiating.

Let’s take the example of job-hunting during this pandemic.

COVID-19 has sent the global job market into pandemonium. Millions of people, myself included, are clamoring for any opportunity to overcome this backdrop of uncertainty. Consequently, the tendency to settle for anything becomes the common ground.

Like bloodhounds, recruiters are aware of this and have no reservations about strong-arming candidates into submission. Lower salary range, excessive qualification requirements, and a grueling interview process. It’s draining.

The narrative of, ‘Take what we give you’ grossly overweighs jobseekers’ soundbite of, ‘Actually, I would like X’.

Too often we are quick to accept the first offer foisted on us by society due to fear and uncertainty. This curbs our negotiation capabilities. Having the presence of mind to “walk away”, empowers us to inadvertently flip the script by minimizing the sting of losing.

Critically acclaimed author, Tim Ferriss takes it a step further by describing a subset term called “Flinching”, whereby you wince at the first offer being presented.

‘The man who fears losing has already lost. Fear cuts deeper than swords’

— Game of Thrones

By not letting fear drive your decisions and cripple you into settling for less than you deserve, you will significantly increase the likelihood of coming out atop. Losing is an inevitable part of our world. The sooner we learn how to eradicate the fear of losing, the sooner we can take control of negotiations in our external environment.

With that being said, some opportunities in life come far and few. Don’t be so naïve in thinking you can deploy the same strategy for every situation. You must know when to walk away.

So, that ticks off negotiating with outer forces. Negotiation can also take on forms a little closer to home.

What do we do here? 👇🏾

Monopoly Taught Me How To Negotiate: Part Two

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