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10 Tips for Women and Negotiation

Several months back I reconnected with a UChicago classmate who is total rock star over in the private sector. Lindsey used to help me survive advanced statistics classes and now she is the Vice President of Strategy and Business Development for Goldman Sachs Bank USA. When I say Lindsey is a rock star I mean it! This girl has gone above, beyond and out of her way in helping me from math classes back in the day to professional development in the present.

Recently I received an e-mail from Lindsey with the simple subject line Good Reads. The email included links to two articles and two summaries from training sessions GS had conducted. I thought to myself, Wow! What a fantastic idea to share this type of information with the people in your contacts who would benefit and/or appreciate the contact. She bcc’d the group which kept her in control of the contacts which I appreciated. Also this was spontaneous, I hadn’t asked about the information or nor was it routine for us to share info like this. I liked it! It was a surprise e-mail that in a way made my day. With that in mind, I’m going to share some of the information from that e-mail.

The last topic in the e-mail was on Women and Negotiation. I had focused my master’s around International Negotiations and so the topic of negotiation is something I have always found interesting. The bulk of the information I am sharing with you all comes from Lindsey’s perspective as a participant in a Women’s History month event at GS where senior women and a professor from Wharton, Mori Taheripouri, spoke about negotiation.

Lindsey Shares the Top 10 Takeaways for Effective Negotiations:

1) Prepare! Prepare! Prepare!

2) Listen actively.

3) Ask questions. Gather intelligence. Establish rapport.

4) Understand their needs and interests. Test for understanding.

5) Set high (but realistic) goals.

6) Use objective data to justify your argument.

7) Think creatively about options to meet both parties’ needs.

8) Treat internal and external negotiations with the same care.

9) Be fully present. Be aware of body language.

10) Ask for it! It’s not what you ask for but how you ask!

Lindsey also highlighted some of the main concepts in more detail from the days conversations, here are her key takeaways:

Everything is negotiable!
Sabrina’s $.02: This is so true and is one of the fundamental concepts leaders know and use. When is the last time you tried to negotiate something? What if the next time someone makes a request from you, or you request something from someone you attempt to and stay open to negotiation.

Misplaced gratitude can misplace power

More about this later

The Art of Asking is simply just asking – you can’t get what you don’t ask for
Sabrina’s $.02: It is going to sound weird, but yes you have to practice asking for stuff and be ok with doing it. For me, I struggled with feeling like I wasn’t being heard so I made it a point to begin asking for the things I really wanted. This ranged from no ice in my water to asking my mom for the first five minutes of a conversation so I could talk first. There are countless times and places in a day where you can practice asking for what you want. You can do it!

Don’t “wear that too personally”
Lindsey’s $.02: This is referring to the times when we let a wrong decision make us feel bad about ourselves and then letting that show. It is ok to let people know you care about something but don’t burden yourself with it – say your piece and move on

Be present and communicate. Presence is important

  • Take up space
  • Put your shoulders back and sit up – your physical being will boost your confidence and the way others perceive you;
  • Speak up EARLY in a meeting, it makes it much easier to become a part of the conversation
  • Run up and down the stairs – it will boost your oxygen levels and calm you down
  • Try “power-posing” – go into a bathroom stall and flex your muscles like a superhero

Lindsey shared that women presenting highly recommended watching Amy Cuddy’s TED Talk, check it out here. Do you agree with Amy? Does body language shape who you are?

Central to any negotiation is understanding what the goal is and why you are asking for what you want. Spend some real time considering these two questions and in doing so think about what the other party in the negotiation would want. This preparation allows you to really frame your “ask” being sure to address the other parties needs and wants. In addition, gather as many facts as possible. Find out key information by asking the other party questions and confirming your understanding of their wants. Negotiations hinge on listening. The more listening you do, the more information you will have to a frame a compelling argument.

Timing is important in negotiations and you need to be ready to sit next someone, not across from them to find a solution that works for both parties. In other words, respect your decision to be a negotiator and stick to your approach of asking questions and being a good listener. Try not to get annoyed or frustrated if the other party starts to get emotional.

Women are great negotiators. They negotiate for clients and on behalf others with great success. But when it comes to negotiating for themselves, not so much. What happens when women negotiate for themselves is they lose objectivity making it personal which frames their argument around themselves rather than the end goal. Women have been raised to seek external validation. They seek someone who says they deserved something (like that promotion) or who will ask for something for them because they don’t want to do it themselves.

Us women negotiators need to stop being so grateful and so sorry. If you are given a promotion it’s because you deserved it. You shouldn’t be overly grateful or you lose authority/power. I told you we’ld come back to this. And stop apologizing for EVERYTHING. I know I’m guilty of it too, but you’ve got to create an awareness around this behavior and stop.

Lindsey shared a story from one of speakers that day. The speaker shared how her managers were very upset with her for how she handled an issue. After, the speaker went back to each of them individually and said the way she handled the issue was not effective and she would like to re-do it. She made each person her ally by framing it such that she wanted them to mentor her. She’s quoted as saying “please make sure you kick me in the shins if I ever handle things like that again, because I want you to help mentor and coach me” The speaker absolutely did not say she was “sorry”. She simply said she handles the issue ineffectively because that’s what she did. Powerful!

The last piece of advice from the women was to be realistic about your asks and goals. No one will be mad at you for asking for fact-based, objective, realistic things. They will see you demonstrating that you know what you want and you’ve thought through how to get there. On the other hand, if you are not being realistic and have not taken the time to ask yourself if you’re demonstrating that you have what it takes, the ask will not reflect well on you.

A special thank you to Lindsey Morfin for generously sharing her knowledge and time with me and now with all you.

Opinions expressed are solely my own and do not express the views or opinions of my employer.

Sabrina Delay is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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David B. Grinberg

Nice post, Sabrina! If you don’t ask you may never know. Conversely, if you DO ask the worst they can say is no.