Eight Tips for Timid Negotiators

Negotiation expert Becky Shambaugh on the art of asking for what you deserve.

When contemplating whether you will ask for something you need, ask yourself what’s the worst thing that can happen? (photo via Shutterstock.com)

Asking for what we want is a difficult exercise – and it appears to be an even more difficult exercise for women. It’s easy to feel uncomfortable, like we may not be entitled to something, or worry that we’ll hear the word “no.” Often, we don’t want to rock the boat. If we do a good enough job, we think to ourselves, “The reward will eventually come our way.”

But what if it doesn’t? It is up to you to tell an employer (or potential employer) what you’re thinking, what your goals are, and what you want. Here are 8 tips for how to achieve your worth.

Don’t expect others to know what you want. Take time to update your manager or organization on your accomplishments and the value you bring to the company. Let them know your career desires and goals. People will not only have more respect for you if you ask for what you want but will also take you more seriously if you define it out loud. Don’t wait for others to guess or determine what is best for you – it is incumbent upon us to be in control of our own destiny. Remember, people expect you to ask for what you want. It shows confidence!

Know your worth. Take stock in yourself and determine your value equation. Identify your accomplishments and be ready to explain how these have positively impacted your team or your company. Research trends, internal and external salaries, and other best practices. Establish a good relationship with a respected recruiter, as they can be helpful to learn about job market trends and your value in the marketplace. The more information you have going in to your request, the more it will allow you to present your case more credibly.

Do Your Homework. Oftentimes, women’s choice of words when communicating can send the message that they are not as strategic as men. When making a request, do your homework before hand and build a business case. Talk about the strategic aspects of your project. How does it fit into the organization’s vision, business strategy, growth plan or annual goals? How will it drive better business results or enhance levels of efficiency, customer relationships? You must understand how your ask will impact the bottom line and be prepared to communicate that connection clearly and succinctly.

It’s Not Just What You Say, It’s How You Say It. Studies show that social cues and nonverbal communication has a huge impact on our presence (and our ability to be taken seriously). When making a request, be articulate and to the point – don’t bring the laundry list of your compliments or questions. Exude energy, passion and confidence; speak up and let people see your enthusiasm and what you care about. Use good eye contact and listen attentively to others, hear them out and have respect for their views and interests. Know the other person’s communication style and adapt your language to it.

Build a Bridge. Be collaborative in your request. Understand your boss’s needs, hot buttons and the needs of the organization when asking for what you want. Remember: it’s a two way street. Ask questions such as “How can we make this a win/win?” and “How would you define success?” Find the right balance between listening, asking questions, and then getting to the solution.

Then Build Your Strategy. Avoid going in and asking on the first conversation – it’s better to engage in an open dialogue to figure out the best approach. For example: if you are going in for a promotion, say, “I have been in this role for 3 years. What do you think it would take for me to get the next promotion?” If you learn that there is a budget freeze on headcount, then shift your request to another direction. Ask for something other than a raise, or, propose the question, “Suppose six months from now things are different. What are my chances? What do I need to do to achieve that goal?” But by using open-ended questions, you can get better information to help you decide what your strategy should be. Then, come back in six months!

Have a Backup Plan. Remember: no is always a possibility. So if you’re asking for money, and there is no money, have an alternative. What about an extra week of vacation, continuing education, or flexibility in your job? Don’t take “no” personally or assume that no means no forever. Pay attention to timing and ask again. Sometimes it just calls for more specifics – so go back, do your homework and build a stronger business case.

Just do it! Know that people in today’s business environment expect us to know what we want and if done appropriately, will have more respect for you. Build your business case and then do it! By asking it will start to get easier and you will start to build your confidence. Remember, if you don’t ask you don’t get! When contemplating whether you will ask for something you need, ask yourself what’s the worst thing that can happen? If we don’t ask for what we want, we will never know what we can really have! Good things rarely show up at our front door. So, go for it!

Join us for a live Facebook Q&A with negotiation expert Becky Shambaugh! The conversation kicks off April 1st at 10 am PST / 1 pm PST on the Lean In Facebook page.

Want to practice putting these negotiation tips into action? Download Becky’s activity below and use it in your next Lean In Circle meeting or grab a friend and do the exercises together.

Download the Activity (PDF)

Rebecca Shambaugh is the author of It’s Not a Glass Ceiling, It’s a Sticky FloorMake Room For Her and Leadership Secrets of Hillary Clinton. She is also President and CEO of Shambaugh Leadership and the founder of the WILL program, one of the first programs in the nation focused on the advancement of woman leaders.

Image via Shutterstock