Regardless of how skilled you are, chances are you can benefit from tips that position you to be a better negotiator. For example, if you are in talks to purchase a home and are wrangling among a seller, the seller’s agent and your own agent, you could benefit from tools to help you remain calm under pressure and assert your wishes.
If you are preparing to negotiate for a new position or promotion, and are questioning whether you are asking for too little, too much or just enough, here are at least 12 points on how to negotiate better so you can keep in mind prior to heading into negotiations.
1. Understand That Negotiations Are Inherently Stressful, and That’s Ok
Walking into a negotiation is not like walking into an informal lunch with a friend. Negotiations are inherently stressful, and you should let yourself off the hook for feeling anxious about these adrenaline-pumping discussions.
Minda Harts, the founder of The Memo, shared,
“Negotiations are a high-stakes game because everything is on the line. It is natural to feel anxiety. Whether you are negotiating pay, equity or whatever, it is important to prepare for high-stakes conversations. You can do this by conducting research, role-playing and getting clear on your worth.”
2. Know Your Worth
Before you ever sit down at a bargaining or negotiating table, you should have a clear sense of your worth. Understand what you do better than others and understand how your work will improve the organization or company to which you belong or are seeking to join.
At the most fundamental level, you should have a good sense of how your skills will add value to the company. When you have a sense of your worth, you have a starting point or frame of reference in negotiations. You will also be better prepared to answer the “what’s your salary requirement?” question.
“If you go into a negotiation not knowing your worth, you’ll look to others to define your worth and they may not value your contribution appropriately. Understanding your skills and expertise, and knowing your worth allows you to position yourself from a place or power.”
3. Understand Your Emotion and the Emotions of Others
In the workplace, women have been conditioned to hide or abandon emotion. Men and women alike are told emotion has no place in negotiations. This isn’t entirely true. It doesn’t serve us well to avoid or discard emotion.
We should understand our emotions as well as the emotions of others. When you understand your emotions and work to be emotionally intelligent, you anticipate what others are feeling and respond accordingly.
When you consciously try to understand the emotions of others, you allow that insight to assist you, enabling you to pivot and adjust during the actual negotiation. Failing to understand emotions may mean you are unable to develop creative approaches for unanticipated challenges.
Researchers Kimberlyn Leary, Julianna Pillemer and Michael Wheeler observed in a 2013 Harvard Business Review article:((Harvard Business Review: Negotiating with Emotion))
“The truth is that your passions matter in real-life deal making and dispute resolution. You need to understand, channel, and learn from your emotions in order to adapt to the situation at hand and engage others successfully. That means you need to be emotionally prepared to negotiate—even when you expect the process to go smoothly.”
4. Conduct Tons of Research
You cannot begin to know what is fair and what is appropriate without research.
If you are negotiating for a new position or promotion, you’ll want to know your predecessor’s benefits package. You’ll want to try to determine what the last person who interviewed and perhaps was offered the position received. You will want to review a company’s 990 to determine what its highest earners make and what those people do. You will want to know what the market offers for positions like the one to which you are applying and what you can be replaced for.
If you are negotiating for a new home, you will want to know what the home appraises for, whether there are liens against the property, what upgrades the seller has made to the home and what other homes on the block have sold for. You will also want to know whether there have been foreclosures in the area so you will know how those foreclosures impact your property value.
If you are in labor negotiations, there is a whole set of other information (such as profits, information from 990s, public complaints, long-term goals, etc.) you need to know before you can begin to know what is fair and acceptable for both the company and the union.
The bottom line is that walking into a negotiation without information is a recipe for disaster and dissatisfaction.
5. Understand What Motivates the Other Party
For some people, status matters. For others, money and resources matter. For others still, autonomy and flexibility are motivators.
Regardless of which side of the negotiating table you sit on, you need to understand what motivates the people with whom you are negotiating. You cannot assess what you will need to give or make appropriate offers without an understanding of key motivators.
6. Don’t Wait for Perfection
One of the things I loved about Katty Kay and Claire Shipman’s The Confidence Code was their take on the dangers of perfection. They assert that often women wait for perfection before submitting projects or asking for a raise or promotion. They point out that we underestimate our own work.
I see this in my own career, and I imagine it rings true for others as well. The key takeaway for me from their book was that perfection isn’t insurance for progress. You don’t have to be perfect to begin negotiations over what you want.
If you wait for perfection, you may never seek out that raise, promotion or reassignment.
7. Say If Afraid
If you are someone who shuns conflict and the very thought of negotiating unnerves you, you should know that you can negotiate while afraid.
You do not have to be courageous to negotiate. You can ask for what you want, even when it scares you.
I remember desperately wanting a pay increase but was too afraid to ask for it. I was fearful I would introduce the topic at the wrong time; I was fearful my boss would scoff when I made my request; and most importantly, I was afraid she would say no.
My boss was an incredibly busy lawyer, and I knew every moment of her time was valuable. However, I knew that my silence and unwillingness to ask for what I wanted would gnaw at me.
I resolved that I was just going to ask and blurted out my request during a check-in. She said no. I thought about my presentation and realized that I should have made my request in a more formal manner. I should have put it in writing and outlined my contributions. I didn’t anticipate that even an informal request could get me closer to what I wanted.
A couple of months later, my boss told me that she hadn’t forgotten my request, and when it was time for the annual cost of living increase, I received that as well as a small bump. She did exactly as she promised.
Going forward, I will be better prepared, but the lesson for me was to ask, even when fearful.
8. Be Willing to Walk Away
Every opportunity is not for you. Regardless of how much you want that position, home or promotion, be willing to walk away if you do not receive a deal that makes sense for you.
Do not allow yourself to get desperate and accept a position that you will come to view unfavorably in the future. Have enough confidence in yourself and in your abilities to leave the table completely.
When your sparring or negotiating partner realizes that you are willing to walk away completely, he or she may negotiate in better faith.
9. Shun Secrecy
I am a proponent of being discreet, but discreetness can be the enemy when it comes to negotiations.
To negotiate the best deal, you may need to shun secrecy. You will need to ask others what they earn or whether the offer you received makes sense for your years of experience, for the area of the country where you live or the position to which you are applying.
If possible, find out whether the company offered the position to others and on what terms. I was negotiating for a position and was comfortable accepting $85,000, and then a friend told me the company offered the position to a man with similar credentials and experience for $100,000. With the assistance of a friend, I was able to get $99,840.
This example illustrates why it is important to speak with trusted colleagues and mentors about offers and solicit their input on whether you are getting the best deal.
10. Look for the Win-Win
Negotiations are not one side takes all, so try not to fall into the “winners” and “losers” trap. It is possible to negotiate in a way where there are no losers but everyone wins.
The best way to ensure a win-win situation is having tons of research, understanding what motivates the other party and being willing to show and discern emotion.
Another strategy for identifying the win-win is listening carefully during negotiations to discern what is of interest to the other party. People will tell you what they want – the question is whether you are listening.
If you are in tune with the person with whom you are negotiating, you will be better equipped to identify what he or she needs to feel satisfied and give it to that individual.
11. Refuse to Fill the Pregnant Pause
In my line of public relations work, I train colleagues and clients to resist the urge to fill the pregnant pause during media interviews. One tactic that some reporters use is silence during different stages of the interview, hoping the interviewee will keep talking. But with an abundance of words comes an abundance of opportunity for error.
The same is true in negotiations. Once you state your salary and compensation package requirements, be quiet. If the person you are speaking with gets silent, you remain silent with him or her. Do not fill the pregnant pause by lowering your requirements or awkwardly adding chatter because you are uncomfortable with silence. Refuse to fill the pregnant pause.
12. Be Honest
When you are negotiating for a new position, be clear with yourself about what you need. Be honest with yourself so that you can be honest with others.
If the offer represents 70 percent of what you want, do not discard the 30 percent that you are not receiving. If you are honest, you can make an informed decision about whether the position is indeed in your best interest or whether you should open yourself up for other opportunities.
If you can be mindful of these points and utilize these tactics, I am confident you will negotiate in a manner that gets you and the other party what you both truly need. You can negotiate like a pro and get the life that you deserve.
More Resources About Workplace Communication
- 11 Tips on How to Resolve (Almost) Any Conflict in the Workplace
- 7 Most Important Communication Techniques to Master in the Workplace
- How to Handle Rejection and Overcome the Fear of Being Rejected
- How to Work with Different Communication Styles in the Office
- 10 Ways to Build Positive Work Relationships and Work as a Team