Lose Your Ego to Get the Best Deal

Confidence is often confused with having a massive ego. Women (exceptions notwithstanding) typically lack the same level of ego as men. Studies too long to list suggest that this lack of ego impedes us women’s ability to rise to the top, negotiate well and get the biggest bang for their buck.  Even if we have the confidence, however, there’s still an assumption that we aren’t assertive enough. In fact,  a law school friend of mine blatantly stated that he’d never hire a woman to negotiate – “they’d probably start crying. Plus, women typically just don’t come off as confident”. This conversation occurred in 2010.  He still regrets saying that to me.
True, men ask for more money than women. They’re also more inclined than women to  apply for jobs, despite not having the credentials. The outcome of this assertiveness is that men fare much better than women when it comes to salaries, bonuses and climb up the corporate ladder…or are they?
While  men are better than women when it comes to standing up for themselves, the same isn’t true when they’re negotiating on someone else’s behalf. Women are just as good. One growing theory is that it’s ego, not gender, that really sets apart the wheat from the chaff. 

History Shows Ego Doesn’t Help – This Includes Steve Jobs

The biographies of numerous contemporary greats – such as Elon Musk and Steve Jobs – suggests that the bigger the ego the better. Ego fuels passion, drive and ability to live off of apples (Jobs) or no sleep (Musk) in order to achieve greatness.  
Peeling back the layers and comparing these more recent “greats” with the everlasting “greats” of our not so distant path – such as Katharine Graham, Bill Belichick, and Eleanor Roosevelt –  reveals that being a jerk and having a big ego is not an asset for success. It’s an impediment.
Musk and Jobs succeeded because of their drive and brilliance, despite their egos. They were kicked out of their own companies and faced tremendous disasters because they believed they knew better than everyone else. They had to fight twice as hard to succeed simply because of their egos blinded them to necessary realities. Imagine what they could have achieved by not being so arrogant so as to get them fired from their own companies! 
If you dig deeper and examine a wider array of successful and influential people, you’ll uncover that the key to success is not ego. It’s hard work, the ability to diplomatically negotiate (very true!) and a bit of luck. As Ryan Holiday, author if Ego is the Enemy and self-proclaimed recovering ego-driven jerk puts it:
“While the history books are filled with tales of obsessive, visionary geniuses who remade the world in their image with sheer, almost irrational force, I’ve found that history is also made by individuals who fought their egos at every turn, who eschewed the spotlight, and who put their higher goals above their desire for recognition.”

Many of us insist the main impediment to a full, successful life is the outside world. In fact, the most common enemy lies within: our ego. Early in our careers, it impedes learning and the cultivation of talent. With success, it can blind us to our faults and sow future problems. In failure, it magnifies each blow and makes recovery more difficult. At every stage, ego holds us back.

The Ego is the Enemy draws on a vast array of stories and examples, from literature to philosophy to history. We meet fascinating figures like Howard Hughes, Katharine Graham, Bill Belichick, and Eleanor Roosevelt, all of whom reached the highest levels of power and success by conquering their own egos. Their strategies and tactics can be ours as well.

But why should we bother fighting ego in an era that glorifies social media, reality TV, and other forms of shameless self-promotion?  Holiday believes that “you will be less invested in the story you tell about your own specialness, and as a result, you will be liberated to accomplish the world-changing work you’ve set out to achieve”.

This is particularly true during negotiations. The more arrogant, the better. Have you ever fed an ego and watch it devour the host’s ability to reason? If you’ve yet to witness the miraculous nature of ego, then try this tactic when negotiating.

The No Authority Tactic and Using Ego to Get Commitment

We’ve all been there – your counterpart finally agrees to your position. You think negotiations when they say “so, all I now need is my boss’s approval”. Ugh! You’ve wasted your time because your smart counterpart just pulled the “appeal to higher authority” tactic. The reality is that your counterpart never intended to agree to that decision. He pretended to “given in” or agree to your point so that you’d reciprocate his cooperative behaviour by conceding to some of his points. In a seemingly legitimate way, however, he’s now pulled back on his promise by hiding behind his boss. Time for you to pull out the “ego tactic”.

 The Ego Tactic

This “appeal to higher authority” tactic (a great tactic, by the way, that you can use if you’re not sure as to how to respond to a request or when you feel pressured to make a decision) can be countered by appealing to his ego. Simply say, “but you have such a high position and you clearly know the needs of (X). I’m sure you have the authority to make this small decision, don’t you?” You may have to poke him a few more times and say, “you’re clearly a reasonable person and you’ve convinced me to make many concessions I never thought I’d make. Obviously you have the power to commit to getting your boss to agree, don’t you?” And, just like a peacock, watch your counterpart perk up and show his feathers.
For those who experience self-doubt, don’t fret. It’s clear in history and during negotiations – ego is an impediment to success and it’s a virtue not to have one.