How to Negotiate

Negotiation is one of the skills in our society that we sorely need, and yet, are never taught. Young people and people from disenfranchised communities are especially discouraged from speaking up or making sure we get what we want.

Instead of getting this invaluable training and experience, people are taught to either be afraid of confrontation or excited by it, and that leads to a lot of confusion and issues when they have to negotiate with others.

So, for your edification and personal pleasure, here are my hard-learned negotiation rules:

  1. In conversation, take notes. Consult your notes when responding, even if it’s awkward. Contrary to popular belief, you do not loose ground in awkwardness, only in impulsiveness.
  2. In written form, read and re-read before responding.
  3. Decide before the confrontation how low or high you’re willing to go on the topics you’re about to discuss. If the negotiating partner refuses to go into your range, table it and come back to it later. Don’t compromise without taking some time to think about it first.
  4. Do your research so you can know your value. Never go into a negotiation without knowing your value in this situation. If you’re not sure, ask a neutral but knowledgeable friend.
  5. Bring your research to the table; use it to back up your argument.
  6. Know your options if this deal goes bad. Remember them when things start to feel urgent.
  7. Take the time to try and think of topics you may not immediately consider. For example, if you’re negotiating a raise, consider vacation days, work from home days, even equipment, training, or certain assignments to be on the table as benefits.
  8. There is always time for negotiation. If your negotiation partner claims there isn’t, suggest they accept your terms wholesale in the interest of experience. Time will become available.
  9. This is not a sales pitch. “Selling” is something that happens in issues of supply and demand. Negotiation is two equal parties coming together to make sure that they are both benefiting as much as possible from their continued association. When I say equal, I don’t mean in pay, but I do mean in value. You are not less valuable than your boss, even if you are not paid as well as she is.
  10. Know when to walk away. Not in order to get the other guy to come around, but for your own sanity. Don’t get into the mud with a bad negotiator, leave.