The Walk Away: Adventures on Canal Street

If you ever need some fresh squid, a Hello Kitty iPhone case, or a cheetah-print luggage set, Canal Street is the place for you.

Of course, Canal Street is home to a million other fun items. Like non-Hello Kitty iPhone cases and non-cheetah print luggage.

Canal Street, by the way, is a mile long stretch of shops in Chinatown of Manhattan. Everything is up for negotiation in the shops on Canal Street, which usually makes for a good time.

c1c2a5f5c0358da1df3ffbc43478f297A couple years ago, I was taking a class in negotiation and figured I should get some “real world” experience by paying a visit to Canal Street. I needed a new Hello Kitty phone case anyways. Win-win.

Ok fine, it wasn’t really Hello Kitty. Or at least that’s what I’ll tell you.

One effective negotiation strategy is to identify your “walk away” limit–the point in which you will walk away from negotiation. If the negotiation approaches your limit, you must be prepared to literally walk away. Like actually stand up and exit the room. Or shop. Or fish market.

However, if your “walk out” is merely staged, the opposing party will probably call your bluff, or smell the blood in the water. Ya know, because of the fish market theme here.

After looking through a couple stores, I found a case I liked and approached one of the roaming cashiers. He told me the price for the case was $25. I decided my “walk away” point would be $15.

I told him I could only pay $10. He said he would be losing money below $20. I said I could do $15. He said no way. I said no thanks. And I walked out. I thought, “touche, brother.” He held his ground. But then, I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned around, and there he was. He said that $15 would work, and we closed the deal.

But then karma happened.

About a month later, again on canal street, Amanda and I were looking for a couple of those colored “I ❤ NY” mugs. We entered one of the souvenir shops, found a couple mugs we liked, and took them to the old Chinese lady running the store. She said she could do two mugs for $20. I said we could do $10. She said no way. I said we could do $15. She said no thanks. She took the mugs from my hands and walked away. Touche sister. She held her ground and I was left empty handed.

The key to this negotiation technique is removing the emotion and being prepared to literally walk away. With conviction. It feels good knowing the situation is subject to predetermined limits, rather than to emotions of the moment. Basing our decisions on emotions of the moment make us weak. We become slaves to our emotions. And it’s easy for the opposing party to take advantage of that.

What if you could remove emotion from letting go of material things, or toxic people, or expectations? What if you could just “walk away” from these things with conviction? Wouldn’t life be so much easier?

Leo Babauta alluded to this on his blog, mnmlist. He applies this negotiating technique to letting go, and to avoiding creating these weaknesses for ourselves:

If you are convinced you need a nice house with a walk-in closet and hardwood floors and a huge kitchen, you now have a weakness. You will give away precious life hours and savings to get it. Someone else who knows that those things aren’t absolutely necessary can walk away, and not need to spend so much money (and thus work hours) on that kind of house.

If you are convinced that you need Starbucks grande lattes every day, or an iPhone or iPad, or an SUV or Cooper Mini or BMW … you are in the weak position, because you can’t give it up. Someone else might know that those aren’t essential to happiness, and can walk away.

I am absolutely guilty of thinking this way. For example, if I start thinking too long about the new iPhone 6, I find myself feeling that I need it. I know deep down that I don’t need it. But gosh dangit, why is it so hard?

It may be hard, but “the walk away” is a powerful skill to develop. You’ll be able to walk away from the things in life that bring you down, and you might even score a couple of cool mugs along the way.

I might need to pay a visit to canal street and practice my “walking away with conviction” routine again.

My wife probably won’t join me.

Side note: I am on the road this week and won’t be able to post a new episode to The Weekly Creative podcast until Sunday. Sorry about the delay. Hang in there!

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