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LearnAlyssa Davis
Photo by You X Ventures on Unsplash

Photo by You X Ventures on Unsplash

"There are a number of challenges women face. We often lack negotiation skills and training. On top of that, there are our internalized messages about how a woman should behave. As girls, we’ve been taught not to ask for things we want, not to be ‘too greedy’ — to play nice and be a ‘good girl.’” – Carrie Gallant, Negotiating Expert

The One Topic We Love to Hate

Negotiation. It might as well be a four letter word. We love to hate negotiating because most of the time, complacency feels like the easier, safer way out. Why is this? Usually, it’s because of the way we’re framing the idea. Most people see negotiation as a win-lose situation when we should be looking at negotiation as a mutually beneficial way to creatively problem solve. Negotiations are collaborative, and the only way to view them as such is to see both parties on the same playing field. You have a specific set of skills unique to you. The other party has a particular set of skills unique to them. How can the two of you find a way to get the best deal?

Joy Altimare, career expert and chief engagement and brand officer at EHE, tells Business Insider that to succeed in negotiations, you must “start from a positive posture, believe that you are going to succeed, and operate accordingly.” Behavior models expectations. In an early study conducted by Robert Rosenthal, elementary school teachers were told that individual students were intellectual bloomers as shown by a test they took. These students who were expected to bloom did significantly better than their peers. The kicker? The students that were “intellectual bloomers” were selected at random and were no different academically than those who were “regular students.” So what does this tell us? Expectation drives behavior and ultimately, the outcome.

Professor of Stanford Graduate School of Business, Margaret Neale lays it out like this: If you get a job offer and decide not to negotiate and your partner gets the same job offer and decides to negotiate a $7,000 pay increase, by the end of 30 years (after that money is compounded), your partner will have made $100,000 more than you. Think about that the next time you decide to opt out of a negotiation that you know you deserve.

By deciding to negotiate, you’re choosing to advocate for every person in your life that is affected by your big ask. The research supports this. According to a talk from Neale at the Stanford VMware Women's Leadership Innovation Lab, “Women are 14-23% more successful than men when representing others." We like to advocate. The stats prove it. We prove it every time we stand up for someone else. Show up for yourself and do so by representing yourself, your partner, your kids, your dog, your friend, etc. Career coach Tara Mohr asks Goop to “Imagine a woman who is comfortable with what she would like to earn, to support herself and her loved ones. Imagine that she is completely committed to finding the right fit for herself, but also non-judgmental towards any employer who can’t meet her request, understanding that it simply means they aren’t a fit right now. She’s going to be able to make her requests in a much more powerful and more respectful way.” It’s not about fighting tooth and nail for what you want and ruining relationships and partnerships along the way; it’s about coming to agreements that satisfy both you and your counterpart. If you’re not happy, they’re not going to be happy.

Structuring Your Negotiation

Neale lays out the structure of a successful negotiation in this way.

  1. Assess

  2. Prepare

  3. Ask

  4. Package

Assess. Take a look at your situation as a whole. What are the potential costs? Do the benefits outweigh those costs? Look at your alternatives if your ask fails. Know what you’d be left with if the ask doesn’t lean in your favor. To do this, you must also ask yourself what your reservation price is. In other words, what is the absolute bottom line you’re prepared to accept? You can’t negotiate on what you don’t know.

Prepare. As much as you should know your interests and why you’re negotiating, you should also know your other party’s interests. If you don’t know who you’re negotiating with, you won’t be able to get a favorable outcome for both parties. Your network is invaluable. Use it to your advantage. When possible, reach out and ask about the interests of those closest with the other party.

Ask. Now it’s time for the formerly dreaded ask. You’ve assessed the situation. You’ve prepared as much as you can. Now you’re just looking at the ask as an opportunity to show what you bring to the table. You’re not trying to win anyone over; this is an opportunity to engage with another person to benefit both of you. To put it in layman’s terms, if you’re happy at work, they’ll be happy with your work.

Package. A mistake people often make when discussing terms is negotiating issue by issue making the negotiation adversarial. Instead, Neale suggests proposing your solutions in packages. IF you do these things for me, THEN I can do these things for you. You’re bundling your alternative proposals.

Lastly, know when to walk away. Have respect for yourself. Have respect for those you’re representing. And know when a deal isn’t good enough for you. Because trust us, you’re worth it. The best way we can recommend improving your negotiation skills? Use it every day. It can be as simple as walking up to your favorite coffee stand and asking for a discount or stepping into a department store and asking for 15% off. Neale frames it as an ask for help. You’re asking someone else to assist you so that you can get what you want. She says, “Not all of you will be successful every time, but you will be surprised at how often you are.” It doesn’t need to be anything too complicated, but getting used to asking and negotiating “no” is key to finding success.