The Art of Negotiating: How Women Can Be Better At It

The Art of NegotiationMany women miss opportunities from negotiations for the simple reason that it can put them so far outside of their comfort zone that they panic. Yet, negotiating is an essential skill that is certain to boost your business, career, and self-worth. And make no mistake about it: not taking the art of negotiating seriously could hamper your progress.

Whether you manage your own business and need to get a good deal on a partnership or contract, an Executive that needs to negotiate business deals, are psyching yourself up to ask your boss for a salary raise, or need to deal with conflict at work without backing down, being better at negotiating is key, and below are several ways to do just that.

Negotiate from a Position of Power and Influence

Men are traditionally known to be more forward than their female counterparts when it comes to negotiations, as their traditionally assertive role in society means they generally aren’t afraid to ask for what they want and they enjoy the interaction. Women, in contrast, often lack this skill as they are generally not confident and feel uncomfortable, which may mean letting the other person get their own way in deals.

When professor and author Linda Babcock was researching for her book Women Don’t Ask, she found that there was a 7.6% difference between the salaries female MBAs were getting compared to those of male MBAs. During her research, Babcock also discovered that approximately 7% of women tried to negotiate initial salary offers compared to 57% of men. This tells us two key things: that negotiating is crucial for getting a better deal, and you won’t get it unless you try. As such, having the confidence and will to negotiate is an important first step in this regard.

Prepare Notes Beforehand

Go into negotiations knowing exactly what you want, including your baseline on what you are willing to accept. It’s not enough to have an outcome in mind—you need to detail that outcome and write it down, along with clear steps towards your aims. This will help you show the other party (or parties) that you have thought things through, have really studied your options, and have strong reasons to support your case. Sometimes, half the challenge of convincing others is convincing yourself first!

Preparing notes beforehand also lets you avoid getting confused and guides you when it comes to what you need to say and when to say it. Doing so gives you a chance to outline what you would be willing to settle for as well, should you need to compromise during negotiations. We recommend you know your position, tactics and outcomes and enter into negotiations without notes.

Be Clear About What You Need

Accomplished Australian businesswoman Geraldine Buckingham, global head of corporate strategy for BlackRock, explains that you should be explicit about what you need whenever negotiating. She says she used to try to slip what she wanted into talks instead of being absolutely direct, which often led to miscommunication and didn’t always bring her the result she desired. Now, she advises that women state their outcomes in a concise way so a clear conversation can be had, resulting in less confusion and miscommunication between the parties involved.

Be Mindful of Your Body Language

As well as having confidence and using clear language, it also helps to pay attention to your movements while negotiating, even the most subtle ones. If you squirm and look uncomfortable, you’ll look less convincing and the person you’re talking to will know they have the upper hand no matter which words come out of your mouth.

There are plenty of guides on improving your body language, and some of the basic principles which can be applied to negotiations include:

  • Make eye contact. This gives you a more confident and genuine aura and helps build positive rapport with the person you’re negotiating with.
  • Practice your handshake so it’s firm but not too strong. This conveys a sense of self-assurance on your part as well as confidence.
  • Ensure you seem like you’re actively listening to the other person. Not only is it polite, it will make them feel more comfortable. This means you can have a genuine conversation with them and that they’ll possibly be more open to what you’re proposing.

Positive Interactions

There’s a fine line between being assertive and being aggressive. Don’t relentlessly pursue your outcome if you keep hearing “no.” Keep your interactions as positive as possible. Ensure you are willing to compromise, and keep conversations to convince the other person to give you another meeting in the future. Ask what you can do to keep negotiations alive and tell them that you will be pursuing the aims they outline in the meantime.

Remember, a negotiation doesn’t ensure that your demands will be met. Leaving a positive impression on the other party is important as is building relationships, as it helps ensure that they’ll be open to future negotiations with you. However, coming off too strong or aggressive will result in the opposite, effectively closing the doors on future negotiations with a specific party.

Negotiating, when done correctly, can help you progress faster, close business deeds, resolve issues and conflict situations better, or even be a great leader and communicator. If you want key advice on how to be better at negotiations, we recommend joining organisations aimed at the professional development of women. At Behind Closed Doors, we help career and businesswomen improve their skills through networking, mentorship, and other resources, enabling them to progress further, reach greater heights, and take their careers and businesses to the next level.


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