Five Easy Steps to Becoming a Better Negotiator

5 Steps to Becoming a Successful Negotiator


Alecia Kennedy

3 years ago | 4 min read

When I say the words bargaining, negotiating, or haggling, how do you feel? Anxious? Sick to your stomach? Or excited?

If you are like almost half of the population, negotiation is something you actively avoid. You may accept rather than negotiate your salary. You may not question the hours you are asked to work. You may not try to get that time off so that you can visit your mother over the holidays. We tell ourselves a lot of things about why we don’t negotiate. Things like:

I really don’t mind. It’s okay

I don’t want to be a bother.

I wouldn’t get it anyway.

They will think I’m pushy/unreasonable/a bitch

I believe that women are more susceptible to negative messages around negotiation simply because we have been taught to put other people’s needs first and to “get along” since birth. But those things we tell ourselves about negotiating are not true. And negotiation is not really that difficult.

You just have to know what you want and practice a few basic skills. Anyone can do this. And frankly, what do you have to lose?

5 Steps to Becoming a Successful Negotiator

  1. Know your goal. Do not enter negotiations unless you know three things: exactly what you want, what you would be willing to give up to get it, and what will make you walk away from the table. Let’s say you want to ask your boss for an extra day off each week from work. Are you willing to stay later on other days in exchange? Are you willing to give up some pay to get it? What could your boss ask that is an absolute deal-killer? Be crystal clear on your goals before you start a negotiation.
  2. Know the other person’s pain points. Do your research before beginning any negotiation so that you understand what is really important to the other person. If you do not address their hidden fears and needs, you will not be successful. Hint: It’s not always what it seems. If you know the person you are negotiating with (your boss, a friend, a spouse, etc.) listen to them for days or weeks before approaching them with your offer. Make notes of what they tell other people. Notice when they get upset or agitated. For instance, if you want your child to clean up their room, you have to find their motivator. Maybe they are not lazy, they just don’t like be told when they have to clean. Maybe they have no idea how to clean effectively and need you to help them a couple of times until they get it. Maybe they don’t see the point and would be more easily motivated if they were given an allowance dependent on their cooperation. Use their pain point to get what you want.
  3. Learn how to anchor expectations. Anchoring is a hugely effective tool in negotiation. Everyone wants to come out of a negotiation thinking that they got a good deal. You need to be able to give and take during the negotiations, you cannot just demand what you want and expect to get it. So the easiest way to get what you want is to ask for more than you want. If you did the work in step 1 and you understand exactly what you want, what you are willing to give up, and when to walk away, then anchoring will work for you. If your goal is to leave work early twice a month to spend time with your kids, start by asking to leave early every Friday. Your high expectations are set immediately. Be sure and address your boss’s pain points, maybe they are concerned that your work will suffer, assure them that you are willing to work a little extra during lunch if needed. Now, you have leverage room. You can offer to drop down to twice a month if your boss balks at the offer. They feel relieved because you anchored their expectations higher from the beginning and are far more likely to give you exactly what you wanted all along. You may even get more than you expect.
  4. Walk away and let the other person think. Negotiations do not always resolve within one meeting, in fact they often don’t. Sometimes the other person needs time to think. They don’t want to be taken advantage of and if the negotiations were unexpected, they may feel ambushed. Don’t push for an answer immediately. Let them take a couple of days to think. Remain confident and relaxed but don’t let them off the hook if they don’t respond, ask again. Very often, we get what we want when we don’t press for an immediate answer.
  5. Keep it respectful. There is no need to let your emotions become involved in negotiations even when the subject may be very emotional, like custody of your children. Do not let yourself succumb to name-calling, snide remarks, or sarcasm. This will not work! Stay respectful, calmly state your needs, know your limits, and be prepared to walk away if the other person makes it personal. You won’t always get what you want, but keeping your dignity will make an positive impression on the other person and will keep the lines of communication open for later negotiations.


Created by

Alecia Kennedy

Trader·writer·photographer·truth-seeker·all around curious person.







Related Articles