Ask For What You Want: Tactics For Successful Negotiating
My first real experience with negotiating happened very early in my career. A consulting firm offered me three times my salary if I would leave my employer and join their organization. I loved my job, but this was a significant pay increase, so I went to my manager, tenured my resignation, and explained why I was leaving. To my surprise, he immediately offered to match the new salary if I agreed to stay.
I was thrilled, until I discussed the conversation with my husband, who had a very different take. He pointed out that I clearly was very valuable to my employer, they could afford to pay me three times what I was earning, and yet they had chosen not to do so until I demonstrated that I knew the value of the work I was providing—until I asked.
My work as an executive coach has shown that women are more reluctant than men to negotiate for themselves. We know that we need to do it, and far too often we become highly self-critical when we aren’t brave enough or confident enough to ask for what we want.
But more than self-confidence is at stake here. It’s important to acknowledge that there’s a different response in the workplace, depending on who is doing the asking. There’s an expectation that men will advocate for themselves, pointing out their contributions and requesting to be recognized and rewarded for them. However, when women advocate for themselves, they’re often described as “bossy,” “intimidating,” or “too aggressive.” These labels matter. They can impact who pulls us into projects, asks us to join their team, or promotes us.
The good news is that there are some specific tactics you can use to negotiate more successfully and strategically, beginning with building connection and understanding between your request and how it will benefit others. Instead of saying “I’ve earned this promotion,” you might say, “You expect me to be a tough negotiator with clients. Let me show you how skilled I can be on your behalf.”
Actions matter as much as words in this kind of negotiation. Don’t raise your voice or pound the table. Instead, remain calm and composed while you logically explain your request. I describe it as “niceness with insistence.”
Remember that negotiation can and should involve much more than salary or compensation. It shouldn’t be reserved for the annual performance review or when you’re starting a new job. You should also be negotiating for those opportunities that support your abilities to advance and grow in your career—resources to perform more effectively, development and training that will help you build long-term skills.
Negotiation is a critical skill, one that has personal as well as professional impact. You can negotiate everything, from help with a project to who will host the holiday meal.
These five tactics will help you get started:
- Use the “giggle test”: Envision your best-case scenario. If you can name the absolute best outcome without giggling, it’s a legitimate ask.
- Identify your Plan B: Always go into a negotiation knowing what you’ll do if you don’t get what you want.
- Recognize your bottom line: Be clear about your “walkaway” point or the point beyond which you won’t go.
- Do your homework: Make sure that you know what your fellow negotiator wants and needs. Get into their head and think about what matters to them.
- Don’t be afraid of “no”: Remember that the first “no” is really a “yes.” Yes, the negotiation is underway. Yes, you are ready.