Getting what you want is about knowing what to say and how to say it. Easy, right? Not always. We get tips from the experts. If you find negotiating hard, you may think it’s because you’re not confident enough. However, research shows it may also be because women who negotiate are perceived as more aggressive than men. Unfair, but it’s not just men who make this judgement. We tend to see ourselves this way, too.
“We often feel we risk being unpopular and even rejected,” says Professor Linda Babcock, co-author of Women Don’t Ask. The answer, she says, is to think collaboratively and use the win/win technique, looking for ways your counterpart will benefit. Try these tips:
- Smile, make warm eye contact, use inclusive body language and hand gestures.
- Don’t apologise for asking for what you want, but do state your case with charm.
- Be pleasant and sympathetic to the other person – but don’t lose sight of what you want.
Need to know “Negotiating with your children is as simple as ABC,” says child-behaviour expert Lorrine Marer. “Anticipation, Boundaries and Choices. Anticipate what they are going to ask for and plan in advance what you’re prepared to allow them. Anything you’re unsure of, buy some time by saying you’ll think about it. Boundaries are the ‘non-negotiable’ rules. Don’t even enter into a conversation about these. Offer Choices, rather than threatening consequences. Yes, they can go to the party, but you will be there to pick them up at 10.30pm and, if they choose to be difficult, they are also ‘choosing’ to give up their cell phone for 24 hours or forfeit this week’s allowance. Be clear that you don’t have to negotiate, and that you’re doing this to treat them as an adult. The process can only continue if they behave like one.”
What to say “Yes, you can go to the concert, but if you don’t SMS when you arrive, you won’t get your allowance.” OR “You cannot expect me to top up your cell phone if you’re rude. It’s your choice.”
Need to know “Most men are ‘solution-based’,” says relationship counsellor Sarah McCloughry. “They won’t agonise with you about your to-do list or sympathise when you’re too tired for sex. And they don’t respond well to emotional blackmail. But they love fixing stuff. Men don’t understand what ‘doing housework’ means. They need pointers. Is there any chance he could put the washing on every Thursday, and vacuum the carpet in the passage? Could he be in charge of booking the holiday this year? Keep negotiating until you reach a happy compromise. Flattery goes a long way, too – isn’t he the best at loading that dishwasher correctly? He’s a whizz on the Internet, isn’t he?”
What to say “I wish I could find more time for us to spend together. What could you do to help me…?” OR “I find booking holidays online quite confusing. Could you have a look at this…?”
Need to know “Do your homework,” says Brian Munroe, author of Car Buying Revealed. “Use the Internet to get familiar with the current deals in your area. Buy at the end of the month, when showroom targets need to be achieved, so salespeople will be keener to secure a deal. Always test-drive the car and don’t be too enthusiastic. Sales teams are skilled and never on your side. They tend not to be able to move very much on the price of the basic car, but they can add on optional extras, such as interiors or a CD player. Go away for a couple of days to consider deals, then come back. It takes nerves of steel, especially if you really want the car, but remember, there is always another car for a better price.”
What to say “That’s too much. X model is very similar and is R20 000 less.” OR “The showroom down the road can do the same model with similar kilometres for R6 000 less. What can you do?”
Need to know “Builders are hungry for work at the moment, but don’t overplay your hand,” says architect William Hirsch. “Ask the builder directly if he can lower his quote, but give him a comfortable reason for doing so. No one likes to feel they’re just changing the number for the sake of it. Ask if he could adjust his price with different tiles/skylights/flooring. Always hammer out the small print: things like start and finish times, weekend working, Portaloos, tea and coffee, parking, rubbish removal and site cleaning can all cause unnecessary disputes. Be aware that you get what you pay for. Trimming the price excessively might make you feel you have a bargain, but it won’t compensate for cheap materials and a rushed job.”
What to say “Can you suggest some savings I could make on this project?” OR “If you can do something to tweak the price, then I can sign the contract today.”
Need to know “If more money is not on the table, think about other benefits, such as medical aid, pension, holiday or even flexible hours,” says Linda. “The essential in any employment negotiation is working out what you’re worth. That doesn’t mean picking a random sum, or even knowing what colleagues earn. It means knowing the industry standard. If you’ve just been offered the job or taken on extra responsibility, be aware what gave you the edge above other candidates, then use that information as leverage. Good management skills, humour, creativity and flexibility are valued, too, so display these in your negotiating tactics. Don’t use another job offer to blackmail your boss into giving you a rise. You may risk leaving under a cloud. If you have a job offer, let them initiate that conversation.”
What to say “Based on my abilities in this area, is there any salary flexibility?” OR “I’ve increased the profit by X%. I feel that a salary review would be appropriate. Is that something we can discuss?”