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How To Become A Better Negotiator

Regardless of gender, negotiating in the workplace can be a stressful thing, but women often face an entirely different set of obstacles in obtaining the same opportunities as their male counterparts. Surveys have shown that female candidates often are hesitant to make requests for better compensation because of potential reputational repercussions. However, this idea of being perceived as “aggressive” by reputation isn’t entirely baseless. Studies have shown that women who strive for more are seen as pushy and overly ambitious, while their male counterparts who do the same are seen as driven and confident.

We can start to debunk these stereotypes by raising awareness for them, talking about money and providing more women with the resources they need in order to step up and confidently negotiate in the workplace. These are the most common tips and tricks, according to experts, to help women effectively negotiate.

blonde woman in business meeting

Do your research and come prepared.

Doing your research on the topics at hand is your best defense against anything thrown your way. Planning ahead of time can boost your confidence as well as help to make sure that you don’t leave money, or other opportunities, on the table. You should decide beforehand what you want and why, what you are willing to compromise on, and what points are deal breakers for you. Aim high and go into the negotiation with a credible plan, but be ready to concede some points in the process. Designing your plan with wiggle room will be helpful in the long run.

Set attainable objectives.

The first step to getting your goals accomplished during negotiations is to clearly define your objectives. Having your goals outlined and creating strategies for achieving them will make negotiations exponentially easier.

Find a neutral place to negotiate.

A neutral negotiation site will feel less intimidating and create a sense of an even playing field. No matter the location, you should always negotiate either in person or over the phone. Never negotiate through text, email, or voicemail message.

Take a collaborative approach.

woman working on laptop in business meeting

Another proven approach is telling the other group how helping you will actually be helpful to them. Framing why you need what you’re asking for, and how it will also benefit them will make your request seem more essential and make you look like a team player. Whether you're raising money for your business or advocating for yourself at a company, promoting the mutual benefits of your request through this collaborative approach has proven to be very effective.

Compensation can take several forms.

Not all negotiations involve asking for a raise. There are a lot of other elements aside from money that can make up compensation. Aside from your pay, you should negotiate for what you need in order to run your business or to do your job effectively, whether that means title, job responsibilities, benefits, etc.

Ask for help.

If you’re trying to move up in a company rather than promote your own business, it can also be beneficial to ask a direct superior for help. Even just showing up and asking for this help can give you an advantage.

Be assertive and ask for what you want.

Be assertive in asking for what you want without being aggressive. This balance will allow you to negotiate all of your points professionally. Along these same lines being specific in your requests and making the first move to begin negotiations can also help convey this sense of assertiveness. This can be done through the use of eye contact and positive body language as well as clearly and professionally expressing your objectives. Another key habit to kick in order to be assertive is the tendency to unnecessarily apologize for yourself. Using these techniques along with listening to the other group’s concerns and not dominating the negotiations will ensure that it does not turn from assertive to aggressive.

Be specific in your request.

Do not use ‘ballpark figures’ as even these set precedents. Avoid these by being as specific as possible in your requests. If you're unsure of specifics you can strengthen your argument by asking questions to get an idea of what the other group wants and how you can tailor your request to that rather than giving an estimate for how much you want if you don't have enough information.

Take your time.

Remember haste = waste. Rushing through negotiations guarantees that you'll skip over important points and could potentially leave money or other opportunities on the table. Instead, be patient, take your time, and make sure you’ve covered all your points. Be aware of your body language. During negotiations, try to be mindful of your stance and movements. Body language and facial expressions can send signals and affect how you are perceived. Using breathing exercises can help you to relax if you notice your body language becoming tense.

two business women negotiating

Get comfortable saying no.

If you feel that you are not being heard or that your requests are not being met, it’s okay to say no to the other group’s request or counteroffer. If you are discontented with the results of the negotiations thus far, one strategy you can take is to step out for a brief hiatus. This gives you time to regroup and reassess the topic at hand, allowing you to rejoin the negotiations knowing what you want and how you’ll go about getting it. Ultimately, you still may not get what you want, and in that case, it’s perfectly okay to walk away from the deal entirely. If you can't get what you want from the negotiation at this time, you should reschedule a time to revisit the topic at a future date.

Know your worth, and prove it.

Strengthen your argument by bringing documentation of your improvements and accomplishments to the negotiations. Numbers are more impressive than words, so quantify your accomplishments and impact. It will strengthen your argument. Leveraging other offers can also be a testament to your worth and show that your talents are in demand.

Find the balance between leading and listening.

It is important to understand what the other party wants to get out of the negotiation. If you can make your counterpart feel like their requests are also being met, they may be more inclined to give you the points that you set out to achieve. However, this doesn't mean that you should give them whatever they want, but try to meet them somewhere in the middle. This is also applicable if you have an encounter wherein the other group is being rude or difficult. Remember to keep your cool, try to put yourself in their shoes, and remember it's not personal, it's just business.

Don't give anything away without getting something in return.

One common mistake is giving up too much in order to gain something that you feel is more important. A good rule of thumb in this situation is that if you give something away, you should also make sure you get something in return. Disproportionate exchanges in which one group receives way more than the other can set a bad precedent and negatively impact your negotiations with them in the future. Rather than concede, try to find a compromise that benefits both parties.

business women sitting at table

Evaluate the negotiation.

Following a negotiation, reflect on the experience and the outcome. Use this as an opportunity to improve your planning process and negotiation technique, and ultimately apply the lessons you’ve learned towards future negotiations.

Build a relationship.

In the end, you want to establish long-term relationships in your business which involves not taking or leaving too much. As you negotiate, think about how you can put yourself in the other group’s shoes and use this experience to establish a positive rapport and long-term business relationship. This will make future negotiations easier.

Most of these tips and tricks come down to just claiming your seat at the table. The more women openly have conversations about money and position the less intimidating it all becomes. It is important that we start setting the example that you can have these discussions and still be seen as a likable person. By implementing these changes on a personal level it will lead to systematic change in the workplace and closer to overall gender equality.

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