Meg Myers Morgan is in awe of her 7-year-old daughter’s negotiating skills.
She’ll ask for a cookie, Morgan said, and when she’s told no, she asks if Mom can leave it on the table. “Just in case you want to say yes later, we won’t have to get it out again.”
Observing her two daughters and their ability to get what they want from her and her husband inspired Morgan to do a TED Talk called “Negotiating for Your Life” in 2016. That in turn led to her new book.
“Everything Is Negotiable: The 5 Tactics to Get What You Want in Life, Love & Work” (Seal Press, $16.99) is a surprisingly fun read on a topic that often evokes dread.
Morgan weaves in tales of her family, her youth and her graduate students — she’s an assistant professor and coordinator for the Master of Public Administration program at the University of Oklahoma-Tulsa — to describe how negotiating touches every part of our lives.
When I sat down with Morgan, our conversation flowed just as easily as the stories in the book.
She has a lot to say about how we let complications distract us from what we want in our lives, but her advice is simple: Take control of your own story. Don’t just be the hero — be the narrator. No one else is going to make you the hero if you don’t.
The expectations placed on women often trip them up. Time and again she saw her husband praised as a good dad for being an equal partner, while she was made to feel guilty for needing help.
The result was one of her most important negotiations: “not carrying around the expectations of other people, especially on my career and family life,” Morgan said.
The point of negotiating is to get what you want, but she has found that many women are often selling themselves short.
Morgan outlined three primary reasons that people don’t negotiate:
1. They didn’t know they could.
2. They don’t know what their ‘ask’ is. (“You can’t just walk in and ask for ‘more,’ ” she said.)
3. They are worried about how they will be perceived or that they will be seen as ungrateful.
Most women have been conditioned to take care of any and all tasks before them while at the same time working to maintain their likability. They don’t even attempt to negotiate, resulting in their wants and needs being put last.
Our discussion of choices was one of my favorite parts of the conversation.
“We put so much pressure on choices,” she said. “Choices should be fun.”
For her, choices represent the opportunity to take a chance on something.
Just because you choose something once, it doesn’t mean you have to choose it every time — and it certainly doesn’t mean you can’t go back to explore your second or third option.
This is especially practical advice in talking about careers.
Just because you decide to pursue one line of work, it doesn’t mean you can’t switch to something else down the road if you lose your job or get bored or want to take on a new challenge.
“People are afraid to pivot or to reinvent their career. It’s scary as hell, but you don’t have to stay stuck,” she said.
Thinking of your work as building up a variety of skills and experiences instead of just a job title can help you see yourself in other roles.
“You shouldn’t spend your career aiming at the bull’s-eye,” she said. “You should spend your career sharpening your arrows.”
Morgan said she’s a reflective person, so she wrote a reflective book, even though it felt weird to write in the self-help genre. (Her previous book, “Harebrained: It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time,” contains humorous essays.)
She found mentors to guide her and sought out books by one of her favorite authors, Brene Brown, also a professor and known for her TED Talk.
Morgan has taken the lessons she writes about to heart. “I’m still negotiating every single day,” she said.