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By: Jennifer Leeson

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2016-10-11

Women – Mastering the Fine Art of Negotiation

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If you are a woman, you may have ambivalent feelings about negotiating. I’ve found that many women don’t practice their negotiation skills because they see negotiating as either taking advantage of others or asking for more than they deserve. The truth is, negotiating is about advocating for yourself. It is about getting what you need at a fair price. And, when done with respect for yourself and the person you are haggling with, negotiating most often results in a win-win situation, from which both parties walk away smiling.

Confidence Supports Negotiation (and vice versa)

Negotiation requires confidence. Without confidence, you will find it difficult to look another person in the eyes and state your conditions without flinching. Some women were born with confidence and can wheel and deal with the big dogs. The rest of us mere mortal women may have a little work to do before our self-esteem is strong enough to walk boldly into a salesman’s office.

I am a case in point. For me, the road to confidence was a bumpy one. It was great when I was a pre-teen and teen. I was the girl who wasn’t afraid to ask the boys out. With hair dyed crazy colors and a carefree attitude, I was the poster child for high self-esteem. However, my confidence took a headlong dive as I grew older and found myself in a disempowering marriage.

Years later, after my divorce, I had to rebuild my self-perception. I did this by finding a good job, taking back the controls I had given up during marriage, and learning how to advocate for myself and my needs. Learning how to negotiate was one of many new skills I learned during that time of my life that helped me build my confidence and get back on my feet.

The trick is to start with small negotiations. Yard sales are a great training ground. Your own family is a great training ground as well. Simply negotiating for time alone or for other needs can help you realize and build your power.

Most Things Are Negotiable

The more I practiced negotiating, the more I found that a lot of things are negotiable - not just things that come with a price tag. Parents negotiate with their kids to give them a good reason to do chores; employees often negotiate for flexible work hours; and kids negotiate for more screen time. Whatever it is that you want, you can probably find a way to negotiate a good deal.

Here are some rules of thumb that can help you get started:

  • Develop good relationships with the people you negotiate with. It is not always possible to negotiate with people you already know but a good rapport and a history of fair negotiations often help set the stage for a win-win result. If you don’t have a relationship already, you can make inroads by finding common interests with the other person.
  • Go into the negotiation assuming that there will be a positive outcome. You can prepare for the alternative, but keeping your mindset positive will help you communicate in a friendlier and more open manner.
  • Don’t be aggressive. Aggressiveness won’t do you any favors and can make you feel uncomfortable during and/or after the negotiation.
  • Be likeable and credible. When you give the person you are negotiating with a reason to like you, they are more likely to trust that your intentions are good. They are also more likely to feel better about the negotiated price after you’ve left.
  • Determine the price that you want before you negotiate. Do your research beforehand and make sure you know the value of the item you are buying. Otherwise, you won’t know whether your desired price is a fair price, which can undermine your confidence and your argument.
  • Assess the item carefully and consider all of your resources. Develop a list of reasons why the price should be lowered and consider different ways to reduce the price. If you are buying a car, consider the worth of your trade-in. If the car you are buying is used, examine it carefully for clues that it is not worth the sales price (dents, scuffs, rips, etc.). If you are at a yard sale, you may be able to reduce the price of your overall purchase by bundling the items. Think creatively and try all the angles.
  • Remember that the other person is motivated to sell. Even if you know that you will buy the item, play the cards you have. The salesman is likely just as motivated to sell as you are to buy, so point out your reasons for lowering the price and see what happens.

Go Into Negotiations with the Right Mindset

If you are feeling vulnerable or “off,” you aren’t likely to negotiate well. If you have made an appointment to see someone for a negotiation, you can handle pre-appointment “cold feet” in a couple of ways. One option is to cancel, but I’m going to encourage you to try the other option first. The other option is to reset your mind by grounding yourself in the details of the negotiation. Here is what I mean:

  • Write out the pros and cons of taking on this negotiation. What could you gain from the negotiation (think about finances, personal strength, etc.).
  • Consider all the potential pitfalls you might run into along the way and imagine how you could handle them. This will help you see that there is a way to deal confidently with every situation that is likely to arise.
  • List the reasons why you should have the item you want or need at the price you have determined is fair.
  • Remind yourself that the point is not to win. It is to advocate for what you need and find a solution that will benefit both you and the person you are negotiating with.

Believe in yourself – Make the Ask

Despite how far women have come, many are still shut down by the harsh judgement or firm opinions of others. It can be so hard for women to find their voice and ask for what they need. Though we often blame men for standing in our way, women can be just as big a barrier. In a world where women who advocate for themselves can be subject to criticism and nasty names that I won’t repeat in this blog, it can seem easier to hold our tongues and get what the world wants to give us rather than speak up and achieve our goals. Negotiating, even for small things, can be a step toward confidence. So, if you haven’t negotiated for something today, find something you want and start considering what it’s worth to you. When you’ve figured that out, make the ask and see what happens. 


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About Jennifer Leeson

Jennifer Leeson, our Rutland Branch Manager, works closely with members on financial counseling and credit building. Jennifer has two college-age children and lives in Rutland with her husband.