If someone said to you, “Let’s negotiate,” about a business transaction, how would it make you feel?
Excited? Nervous? Ready to run for the hills?
Me, I love a good negotiation. It makes me feel powerful and in control. It’s also a wonderful opportunity for me to find a win/win solution for all the parties involved.
But it hasn’t always been that way.
When I started out in business, I didn’t love negotiation. It made me feel nervous, queasy, and anxious. I was afraid that I would do it wrong, that the other person would be offended, even that I would ruin the opportunity or the entire relationship.
But then I had some major mindset shifts around negotiation that completely changed both the way I approach it and the results I get.
As women business owners, I know that we need to stop hiding from negotiations and start asking for what we want and need — and the first step is fixing our mindset around negotiating.
Part of feeling confident is being prepared, which is why I prepared this Negotiation Assets & Interests Worksheet for you, to help you prepare your argument and walk into any negotiation feeling more prepared and confident.
What negotiating is… and isn’t!
Negotiating a price, a fee, a contract, or a discount doesn’t mean you’ll ruin all your relationships or become known as pushy or aggressive. In fact, you can be feminine, authentic, and a great negotiator. In fact, I like to think I’m walking proof!
But if the thought of negotiating makes you uneasy, you’re not alone. In surveys, more than twice as many women as men said they feel “a great deal of apprehension” about negotiating. Men negotiate more than four times as often as women — and logically, that means that men “win” more negotiations than women, because the women aren’t negotiating at all!
I think this is entirely to do with mindset. Men in western culture are generally brought up to be more aggressive and “play to win,” whereas women are brought up to place more value on relationships, look for compromise, or be a peacemaker.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
That’s because I see negotiations as a dance between two people with mutual respect rather than as a zero-sum game, winner take all.
The negotiations dance
Like a dance, a negotiation is a collaborative activity. It’s not one party working against another, as in a game or a fight where there is a winner or loser. Instead, it’s a collaboration, and requires both parties to create something better than either could do alone.
As they say, it takes two to tango!
If you can go into a negotiation with the idea that you will negotiate until both parties come out winners, you’ll be much better off.
Here are some suggestions:
- Treat negotiating as a fun challenge, a dance, or a game. If you remember that the object of the game is to go back and forth, you won’t get nervous when the other person presents a counter-offer.
- Commit to finding a win/win solution. This takes a lot of the “ick” factor out of negotiating when you know you’re trying to do what’s best for both of you.
- Be creative! See negotiations as an opportunity to really think outside the box to come up with novel solutions that will get you both what you want.
- Imagine the other person as your partner. In a dance or in a business, you want the best for your partner — and the same can be true in a negotiation.
The biggest benefit of changing your mindset around negotiation might be that it puts the other person at ease as well. When they realize you’re not challenging them to a duel, but rather asking them to dance, they may be much more likely to work with you than against you.
For me, being prepared is an important part of feeling confident in negotiations, which is why I created the Negotiations Assets & Interests Worksheet for you — to to organize your research, establish goals, and understand key points you need to communicate before you go into any negotiation.