Women In Negotiation: Fearful or Fabulous?

Women In Negotiation: Fearful or Fabulous?

Earlier this week I got to dust off my negotiation training hat for two different events and oh boy, were they eye-opening, interesting and fun. I discovered a few things about women in negotiation that I’m excited to share with you here.

First let me tell you about the events. Saturday’s was a workshop at the Pitch Refinery, a super cool conference for entrepreneurs and managers who want to take their careers to the next level. The other I moderated through Crave Chicago at a space in Evanston called Creative Coworking. When you get a chance (as in right after you read the rest of this) you have got to check out the restaurant that provided the food, Curt’s Cafe. It’s a non-profit that provides training for at-risk youth in Evanston. Talk about fabulous.

Now let’s get to the juicy stuff. Here’s what was obvious during both sessions: women often don’t see themselves as rockstar negotiators. What’s up with that, ladies? To tell you the truth, I wasn’t surprised to discover this. Time and again, I see how women are reluctant to ruffle feathers, especially in the business world. So during each session we covered a few ways to overcome the heebee jeebies we often feel during negotiations.

1. Are you charging enough? Probably not.

At both events, we discussed the big question, “How much should I charge for my services?” I’ll never forget the first time I asked this question. It was to a professor of mine at Columbia. She recalled how her mentor had been in the same situation years ago and had come up with a formula to determine her fees. She took whatever number she initially thought of to charge and multiplied it by three. The reason was simple: she knew she was selling herself short.

Are you doing the same? One way to find out is to do some research. Look online, call other professionals in your industry and ask them what they charge, or find a mentor to help you determine what your fees should be.

When you’re negotiating your fees with a potential client, know your bottom line. That is, know how low you are willing to go before you’ll walk away (this is called your BATNA, or Best Alternative to Non Agreement). If you know your BATNA going into the conversation, your less likely to get flustered when a potential client asks you the inevitable, “Is this fee negotiable?”

2.  The power of silence.

I’m one of those people who can blabber on forever, as long as it means NO awkward silence. But not when it comes to negotiation. Next time you’re negotiating with your spouse, colleague, boss, friend or family member, don’t be afraid to let the conversation ease into quiet. It’ll give both parties a chance to regroup and will also help cool things off. Using silence is also a sign of confidence.

Now that I’ve said that, I also have to mention the opposite: if you need to raise your voice, do it! No, I’m not advising you to scream at someone the next time you’re in a negotiation, but don’t shy away from those heated conversations. Conflict, when handled well, can actually strengthen a relationship.

3. Take care of you first.

Another notable trend that stood out: women are often afraid of offending the people we’re negotiating with. “What if they disagree with me?“ or “What if they get mad or are disappointed in me?” My response to all of those worries is… who cares. Ok, you’re right. That’s harsh. How about this instead: “I care about how you’re feeling, but I need to put my needs and feelings first.” Women need to get more comfortable hearing that others are frustrated and unhappy with us, and we need to get more comfortable expressing when we’re frustrated and unhappy with others. If we don’t speak up on behalf of ourselves, who will?

I learned a lot more from the participants in both sessions, but those were the areas that definitely stood out. Remember: women can be negotiating rockstars only when we value what we bring to the table, regardless of what anyone else there thinks.

Good luck, my friends, and let me know how your next negotiation goes!

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