Negotiating Skills for Women that Men Can Use Too
Raise your hand if this applies to you as you read the article. How many of you hate negotiating? How many of you believe that if you perform well you should get promoted, raises, and new job assignments? How many of you think that men have an advantage over you professionally? How many of you think that men don’t have to negotiate to get what they want? Ok, so there are a lot of you who raised your hands to these questions, both men and women. Negotiating skills do not come easily for most of us, and women struggle more than men.
Before we go too far, let’s define negotiation. Negotiating is a tool to help change the status quo when change requires the agreement of another person or persons. By definition it involves a series of offers and counteroffers in which both sides make concessions. Here’s a few interesting statistics. Men initiate negotiations to advance their own interests about 4X more often than women. Women don’t ask for promotions, don’t request project assignments, don’t propose taking on more responsibility, and don’t request additional training even 25% as often as men do.
Since women clearly are less powerful negotiators, and ask less often what skills they can develop to help them learn to negotiate more effectively, let’s begin with some beliefs you are likely holding onto.
- Let go of that voice in your head. Let go of the voice that says “it’s too much”, “they will say no”, “I don’t have the skills”, “you work hard but lots of others work hard also”, “what makes you think you should have it more than others”. Let go of your false beliefs: if you deserved it someone would have given it to you buy now (whatever that is…raise, promotion, new project, time off, etc.).
- Don’t worry about rejection. A woman often takes rejection as judgment on the quality of work or, even worse, a reflection on her worth as a person. Perhaps you even tried before and were told “no”, so you quit asking.
- End your belief that you think it’s not ‘feminine’ to ask.
- Who cares if you are liked? There is a fear of being disliked…women focus a lot more on relationships than men and fear that if they ask it will negatively impact their relationships. Don’t worry about being liked. While likable is important it doesn’t belong in the negotiation. All negotiation takes place within the context of a relationship; a relationship in which each party has something of value to offer. They don’t have to ‘like’ you to say yes.
Now that you have set aside these self-limiting beliefs, let’s discuss how to negotiate.
- Information is power. The more you know about what you are asking for, who makes the decision, what challenges it may cause them to say yes, etc., the more positive the outcome. As with most things in life, the power is in the information.
- Make sure you know what you want specifically, and aim higher than you think. Women tend to aim lower than their male counterparts. Also be clear about the message to ensure you get what you want.
- Make sure you know what you can live with and what you are willing to negotiate. For example: if you want a raise/promotion, can you live with specific goals you have to meet within a specific time frame and if you achieve them you get what you want? Or do you need to have it now? If they are willing to send you to one conference instead of the two you want, is that acceptable?
- Don’t focus on your own goals. Focusing on your own goals means you may miss something that can have a big impact on the negotiation (body language, something they say, their challenges, what it means to give you what you want, and words they use). Also, be on the lookout for emotional words, such as “fear”, “frustration”, “worried”.
- Stay away from emotions. People respond to the emotions, not the words. Men really don’t like dealing with emotions, ever. In business, they like it even less.
- Focus on interests, not position. Position is going into a negotiation telling them what you want and the rest of the time defending that position. Interest is trying to understand the interests — needs, goals, constraints, and pressures behind each position and look for a way to satisfy those interests…several solutions that satisfy both sides.
- Share information freely so they can make a decision. Don’t worry that by sharing too much it makes you vulnerable, it doesn’t.
- Ask lots of questions. Ask questions about their needs, what’s important, why they think what they think, etc. You have to understand the other party involved in the negotiation in order to make offers and counteroffers.
I can’t end this article without including phrases you should NEVER EVER use in negotiations. Using these words will likely lower your value in the other person’s eyes.
- You probably won’t agree…
- I’m not sure this is a good idea…
- I may be out of line…
- I know we’ve discuss this before, but…
I want you to remember that hard work, top performance, and being good isn’t going to get you what you want. Ok, maybe it does sometimes, but if you want something you have to go ask for it. You can expect the answer to be no, maybe more often than yes. You have to keep asking and keep negotiating. If this is the first time you’ve heard no then you aren’t asking often enough. Sometimes you don’t have enough bargaining power to get what you want, right now. Timing is a consideration, but don’t underestimate the value of loyalty, commitment to the goal of the company, and other non-quantifiable skills. They are useful tools during negotiation.
If you don’t believe in yourself enough to ask for what you want, how can you expect someone else to believe in you? Don’t be timid about asking, and don’t assume that you shouldn’t have to ask. No one knows what you want until you tell them. They can still say no, or not now, or counteroffer; the first step to getting what you want is asking.
I have a handout I have used during my workshop Negotiating Skills Tools. If you’d like a copy of this tool, simply send me an email with the subject “Please send me the negotiating skills handout”.
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