In today’s episode of The Startup Chat, Steli and Hiten talk about how to negotiate with yourself.

Sometimes, we talk ourselves out of doing something that’s good for us or we know we should do. This is a common habit that a lot of founders have, and is known as self negotiation. Tts a sabotaging tactic that keeps us from changing our habits or procrastinating.

In this episode, Steli and Hiten talk about why self negotiation is a very interesting concept, when to negotiate with yourself, what negotiating with yourself can look like and much more.

Time Stamped Show Notes:

00:00 About the topic of today’s episode

00:31 Why this topic was chosen.

01:06 Why this is a very interesting concept.

02:28 Why the biggest impact that we can make is mostly inward and not outward.

03:27 How a lot of people negotiate.

03:49 When to negotiate with yourself. 

04:38 Things Hiten does when he negotiates with himself.

05:40 What negotiating with yourself can look like.

08:47 Hiten’s thought process for figuring out what the right thing to do is.

10:07 How Steli approaches decision making.

3 Key Points:

  • Usually, you negotiate with two parties instead of with yourself.
  • For me, it’s all about figuring out if what I want to do is the right thing to do.
  • The biggest impact that we can make is mostly inward and not outward.


Steli Efti: Hey everybody, this is Steli Efti.


Hiten Shah: And this is Hiten Shah. Today on The Startup Chat we’re going to talk about, how do you negotiate with yourself. This is based on a tweet. I think it was James Clear on Twitter that tweeted it and then I retweeted it and Steli saw it, put it on our list to talk about. We’re jumping in. We’re going to talk about how you negotiate with yourself. I think it’s a very interesting concept. It’s something that… One of those things that when you read it you’re like, huh, what does that mean? How do I do that? I think that’s really where the discussion starts.So to me, negotiating with yourself is almost like… Usually you negotiate because there’s two parties and they want different things. They’re not aligned yet. I think in a way you could say either it’s because I’m watching too many shows right now and random things. There’s a show called Limitless and there’s also a movie called Limitless. The main character takes a pill and the pill makes him super smart. When he does that, pretty much when everyone takes the pill, they see a part of their psyche, whether it’s somebody else they love or themselves and they start talking to themselves. And literally what they’re doing is, they’re negotiating about what to do because now all of a sudden they’re super smart. They need someone to talk to apparently, but it’s all in their own psyche. But it’s someone to talk to you to negotiate what they should do.


Steli Efti: That’s interesting. I saw the movie. I’ve never watched the show. The reason I put this on the list of potential topics was that I don’t retweet that many tweets. When I saw this in my timeline, you had retweeted it, I instantly retweeted it. Then after the fact, I was like, why did I retweet this? Right? What about it was compelling? What made me want to share this more widely and to me, And to me I think that the biggest battles that we fight, the biggest impact we can have, is mostly inward and not outward. It’s like being in competition with yourself is the negotiations we have with ourselves, is improving ourselves. I think that an incredible amount of value can be created when you see all the versions of yourself that exist. When you are observant and mindful and present to your thoughts, your feelings, your mental states, your habits, and you’re not just the victim of your impulses and your thoughts and your character, but you’re in negotiation with that and you’re aware of it and you’re molding it and forming it. I think there’s a lot of impact that can be had that way and I think that most of us spent significantly more time outwardly. How do I negotiate with customers? How do I become a better negotiator with investors? Or how do I manage people effectively so they do what I want them to do? That’s, I think, a much more attractive world, the outside world to people. But it’s the internal world where we win or we lose and where we really have the chance to have an impact. This idea of becoming… Well, first the question, when do we negotiate with ourselves consciously or subconsciously? And how do we get better at negotiating with ourselves? I felt like that’s a super compelling question, right? Let me ask you, what are some of the things that you do when you negotiate with yourself if you want to use that framework. When you have, let’s say an inner voice that goes, maybe I should do this, maybe I should do that, or I really wanted to do this, but I’m not quite sure. When there’s some kind of a push and pull, when it’s not crystal clear what you’re going to do and you just go and do it but there’s some thinking before going on or some contemplating before going on. How do you do this? How do you make yourself do things? I’ll take that framework of, how do you make yourself do things that you wanted to do, but maybe in the moment you don’t feel like doing or maybe there’s another side of you that is fighting you around these things?


Hiten Shah: I think for me, it’s not a very difficult task because usually if I want to do something I tend to think through it and figure out if it’s the right thing to do. So to me, it’s really about figuring out if what I want to do is the right thing to do or if there are better options. I’m already kind of negotiating. To start with, I’m negotiating if that makes sense. I’m already at the place where it’s like anything I want I’m going to do anything I’m thinking of like wow, is that the right thing to do or not? So it’s almost like everything starts with some form of a negotiation. I don’t know how that is for other people, but for me there’s like constant negotiation about things to do. Sometimes it’s even about what to say.


Steli Efti: When we say how do you negotiate with yourself, who is the you that is negotiating with the self? Like please separate, how do we even think about, maybe this is too much of a philosophical question. I think it might be an interesting one of like realizing that we’re not a single unit of existence. Our bodies, our feelings, our thoughts, our habits, our impulses. Those are obviously all part of our organism in our being. But they’re not always in unity and they are not always completely aligned and we can even like, I think once I had written about this concept of the inner voices that we carry around with us, that we all kind of carry a village inside of us and we’re not just like one character. We’re multiple different characters and different types and different biases in different situations and paying attention to which character is currently dominating your mind and your body and your thought process. And if that character is doing things that are helping you and others or it’s a destructive voice inside your head can be super useful. So you said everything starts with a question, what’s the right thing to do? Is this the right thing to do? And then there’s probably some thought process. Maybe sometime there’s research or there’s reaching out and asking for advice, of collecting information or collecting data to try to get to the answer of the question, is this the right thing to do or not? Or how do you do? How to do this right? And sometimes that process is pretty straight forward, right? You collect this stuff or you follow that? You try to come up with an answer to that question and the answer in a fairly straightforward way crystallizes as, yes, no, do this or do that. Cool. But what do you do? What’s your process when you’ve done all that work? Will you follow that question? You don’t arrive at a crystal clear point of a yes or no. There’s some pros, some cons. There’s some internal conflict. There’s some push and pull inside of you of maybe I should do this. Maybe you should do that. I mean you’re an amazing human being but you would assume even you, are at times in the situation where you’re not quite sure, where you go back and forth. Or where you said you would do something, but then yeah, you’re still acting a little bit differently. Or is that really something that you’re kind of left behind so you’re rarely in this internal conflict situation. I would say like a negotiation with yourself inherently means there’s two sides that are fighting something out, either with words or with something else. Like there’s a back and forth that’s going on. What do you do when you are in that situation?


Hiten Shah: I guess I have a lot of practice. So if I’m always trying to figure out what’s the right thing to do or always debating something before doing it, saying it. It’s like if you’ve never tried it, you should just try it. And the easiest way to do this is like whatever you’re thinking, just think the opposite and see what comes up.


Steli Efti: Uhmmmm.


Hiten Shah: I think it’s just a practice thing, just try it. It’s just like, Oh, I’m going to eat pizza. Well instead of that I’m going to eat some broccoli. Right? Like, I mean it can be as simple as something just ridiculous, right? Like whatever it is, it’s like start practicing, thinking about the opposite thing that you are actually planning on doing. Play that out.


Steli Efti: I love that because that requires a level of mental flexibility that I think is at least surprising to most people. Like even I had this situation with the current crisis that is going on and there’s a lot of groups of people that I’m part of in WhatsApp or whatever that basically are right now at a point where they’re arguing between, it’s much worse than we think or is not as bad as we think, right. And they’re sending each other different articles and YouTube links and podcasts and different expert opinions or different data. And I have learned whenever I am overly committed to an idea or a position, and I find that even when somebody offers me an opposing position, I instinctively reject it before consuming it or considering it. I’ve build up the habit to notice that and go Ooh.My thinking is very rigid.I already want to say no to something although I only read the headline, I don’t want to even entertain that the other party is right. And I think flipping the switch and going, let me actually try to convince myself today that I’m wrong. All right, let me actually think the opposite that I’ve thought before. Or you know, the opposite today. Let me do exactly the opposite of what my instincts are telling me to do. I think that requires, I mean, there’s some playfulness in it, the way I’m describing it, but it requires real mental flexibility. And maybe that is at the core of negotiating effectively with yourself is that you need some level of flexibility where you don’t just rigidly respond to your thoughts, or your feelings,or the mental states that you’re in in the exact same kind of automatic way every single time your entire life. Well you have the flexibility, your build up lift, the mental flexibility to switch things up, to change your thoughts, to change how you feel, to try, an opposite approach, an opposite perspective. And you are willing to fight these things out at times versus just acting out anything that’s going on in kind of the same pattern that you always do.


Hiten Shah: That’s the key, right? And this is where the practice comes in. The only way to actually get good at then basically negotiating with yourself. And I mean ultimately making better decision as a result is basically by doing it. And so in any tiny way or big way, you should just try to do it and see how you feel and then eventually you’ll realize that it just helps you make better decisions if you’re willing to take an opposing viewpoint. And the thing you said earlier sort of did that about the current crisis and people debating it. I mean this is just a classic key example of nobody really knows anything and the future is a lot more uncertain than it was like in January let’s say, or December for men. So it’s like this is the best time to practice something like this where you’re actually negotiating with yourself and seeing what you can come up with. A lot of times at some point, I think when you do this enough, you just realize that most decisions don’t matter that much and the negotiation is really about picking and choosing who, which decisions are actually worth negotiating with yourself. I think broccoli or pizza, probably not the biggest deal, but if you do broccoli or pizza like a hundred days in a row and made that choice to go with pizza, it’s probably a big deal. Right. But that’s a different like that that has something to do with some other choice that you’re making around, should I be, you know, eating healthy or not, or should I lose weight or not? Or should I whatever. So yeah, I think for example, this whole debate about what’s going to happen, is it worse than people are saying or are not? Like honestly, nobody knows. We still know, but we really don’t know. And in a lot of cases if you just look at the information out there actually depends on where you live.


Steli Efti: Yeah. The other thing is also like noticing, and maybe we’ll, we’ll wrap this up around around this idea that this thought, but I think that people are just inherently uncomfortable with the, we don’t know.


Hiten Shah: Yep.


Steli Efti: Part of everything. And so they want to believe something and then that makes them chase down all the evidence and all the people and all the articles they can find that puts them at ease and makes them mix them. Go see, I knew I am right. This article says the thing I’m thinking or the thing that I want it to be and this person also agrees with me. And then the funny thing is the last two weeks I noticed the people that are sharing lots of articles and stuff, they always share the same stuff. And it’s like what is happening here? It’s not like information gathering. It’s not like all these interesting new facts and ideas and thoughts. It’s basically trying to champion and convince everybody else they know and probably convince themselves. See, I’m finding more and more evidence every day that my original position is right.


Hiten Shah: Yep.


Steli Efti: And I mean there’s very few pros but lots of cons around this. And maybe we’ll do an episode at some point about like how do notice your own bias and when your bias is dangerous to yourself.


Hiten Shah: Yep.


Steli Efti: It might be something interesting there, but I think just for people, especially in uncertain times, noticing what you want to do, what thoughts you have, what your feelings are, what’s going on in your life, and then ask you, whenever you can’t. Whenever you end the day, you’re disappointed with your actions or the results you’re generated. Maybe you didn’t negotiate successfully enough with the right side of yourself and just ask yourself, what, when did things go wrong? When did I, when was I at the crossroad between should I do X or Y and why did I choose something that ultimately and very simply I knew I was regretting and how can I get better at negotiating with myself? How do I get better at making myself do the things I want myself to do versus not? This is an interesting, weird, curious, compelling topic. So as always for those of you that have an idea or a story, you’re like, ah, I wish I could tell Hiten and Steli this right now about this episode. Just get in touch with us. We always love to hear from you, H [inaudible] and until next time, stay safe and we’ll hear you very soon.


Hiten Shah: Be negotiating with yourself. Yeah.