There is a simple reason for why you should never negotiate for yourself. It’s too hard to be objective. I’m suggesting you think like an agent.

It’s much easier to ask for what you want when you are negotiating for a 3rd party. Even if that third party is your pet goldfish.

Why a 3rd Party?

When you take a step back and think about an offer being made or an offer you are making it’s easier to do so when YOU are out of the way. You can be more objective and you can more easily negotiate in good faith.

And you can confidently say (or at least think) “that offer is not in the best interest of my client.” You may only want to think this specific set of words and come up with a more realistic reply that matches the situation at hand.

Again, this is true whether your client is your spouse, your kids or even your pet goldfish it’s easier when you can take yourself out of the conversation and negotiate for a 3rd party.

Never Negotiate for Yourself.

This is something I have told many people over the years. Why? Because it’s true. When you can frame the negotiation from the context of your stakeholders — your spouse, your kids, or event your lowly pet goldfish — you can maintain your objectivity.

Think About It

Have you ever wondered:

Why do professional athletes have agents?

Some may think it’s because the professional athletes aren’t smart. I don’t think that is true at all. No one makes it to the pinnacle of their profession by not making a lot of critical decisions and taking a lot of calculated risks. Sure, many have a lot of help along the way. But there is a lot of intelligence required to make it to the top of any profession.

One big difference an agent can make is that they can take a step back and make a rational, objective decision without getting all the emotions tied up in a personal 1:1 negotiation.

Also, an agent can look around corners and think about the bigger picture. Most athletes are extremely good at their chosen sport. Yet, they are not versed in the nuances of the industry that supports their sport. An agent can look for external options that may be not be obvious to the athlete.

Along this same line of thinking:

Why do professional business people have agents?

CEO’s of large and small corporations have people working on their behalf to get the best deal. I’m not arguing if this is right or wrong. It just is. In much the same way a sport agent negotiates for a shoe deal a business agent may negotiate for a percentage of the profits when specific objectives are met. Again, I’m not arguing if this is right or wrong. It happens all the time.

You can negotiate for anything. This post is primarily about acting like an agent in the negotiations for things related to work. I have provided a few examples of work negotiations below. I have also provided some ideas for acting like an agent at home and in volunteer work.


At work you can negotiate for hard or soft benefits. Where a hard benefit has real dollars associated with the acceptance of said benefit. Soft benefits may not have hard dollar values associated with them, but may have huge psychic benefits.

I have found over the years that people will work even harder for soft benefits. This is not to say people don’t like to earn more money. They do. However, many people would be just as happy with a soft benefit. This is something that should be kept in mind when negotiating. Some “gives” are very easy to offer … especially when they are win-win.

Some examples of hard and soft benefits at work are below.

Request for you: Please drop a comment on this post for the hard and soft benefits that you have asked for OR offered. I’m curious to know what you value.

Hard Benefits

  • Company Car
  • An extra week of vacation

Soft Benefits

  • Work from home one day a week (or full time)
  • A week of UNPAID vacation (because you are committed to a specific cause — you may be willing to take an unpaid leave)


You can, and likely already do, negotiate for chores and tasks around the house. Things like taking out the trash, loading the dishwasher, paying bills and so many more seemingly trivial yet critical tasks. Does this mean the person that “owns” a particular task ALWAYS has to do it? Of course not. That’s part of the relationship. There is a natural give and take. Sometimes it’s by skills. Others it’s by (perceived) available time.

The home is probably the most dynamic place for negotiation to happen. Because things that don’t (typically) happen in a business environment often happen on a regular basis at home. Complaining, whining and perhaps even crying can be employed to great effect. I’m not saying this doesn’t happen in the workplace, but I can say it’s not very common.

  • You can act like an agent at Home:

It may not be as obvious but there are 3rd parties to consider in the home. The obvious one is kids, but the less obvious examples include friends and family. I’m not suggesting pitting kids or friends and family against each other or your spouse. I’m suggesting that as an agent you can put yourself in their shoes and negotiate on their behalf. It can defuse an emotional situation when you realize you’re not arguing for yourself, but for your 3rd party.


On all of the non-profits I work with (Social Media Club Seattle, IAMCP – Seattle, Chris Elliott Fund, and a few others) all of the roles are voluntary and unpaid. Someone needs to manage the dollars and donations; someone needs to control the meetings – timing, pace, content, etc.; someone needs to coordinate the marketing activities; and so many other things. How do they all get done? People volunteer for roles and responsibilities.

When people don’t want to work together … they negotiate with their feet and leave.

  • Acting like an Agent at a Non-Profit:

To me the easiest thing to do as an agent is to think about the constituents – the people you are trying to serve in your volunteer work. Think about who will be affected by your efforts. Think about why you ever joined this non-profit. Think about just one person you met at the last event. If that person was enough to make you keep doing whatever you agreed to do … continue on. If not, re-think it.

Why you should Never Negotiate for Yourself

Because it’s too hard to maintain your objectivity. When you work as an agent – you can negotiate better deals. Yes, you are still ostensibly working for yourself and on your own behalf, but when you put yourself in the role of an agent … especially if that agent is representing your spouse, your kids or your pet goldfish you can think better, asked tougher questions and be one step removed from emotionally charged negotiations.

Think like an Agent and Never Negotiate for Yourself Again.


Jeff  is a veteran in the Enterprise Content Management industry. Over the past 20 years he has worked with customers and partners to design, develop and deploy solutions around the world. Jeff is currently the Director of Strategic Alliances at Winshuttle. He has worked for Microsoft, FileNet (IBM), K2, Captaris, Open Text, Kofax and Kodak. He speaks and blogs about ECM and the Intersection between Social, Mobile and Cloud Computing.