Make negotiation great again

Two people are fitting pieces of a puzzle together. Collaborating to create something new.

Not all negotiations are win/lose. You don’t have to channel the former US President to be successful. In fact, that type of aggressive, confrontational negotiation really won’t get you very far if you’re a woman. That’s because there are two things we always need to remember, going into any kind of negotiation. 1) Most negotiations are not high-pressure, high-stakes affairs. 2) If you assume a new personality in a negotiation, you will appear inauthentic and overly aggressive – which will not help you win.

Most women experience some level of fear or anxiety when they think about negotiation. Partly, that’s because most of us don’t have a good understanding of what negotiation is. It’s not just the high-conflict divorce and real estate negotiation that we think of. Most negotiations represent an opportunity to build a relationship between you and the other person. But this can only happen if you approach the conversation with an expectation that you will be able to collaborate to secure a win-win agreement.

Integrative vs Distributive Negotiation

In my courses, I always start with a deep dive into the different types of negotiation that we will encounter in life. We tend to think of distributive negotiations first – the ones that are high pressure, high stakes, and where the pie is only so big…and the point of the negotiation is to get the biggest piece of pie.

That type of negotiation often leads to a further fracturing of the relationship (think nasty divorce), or takes place where there really is no relationship of importance at play (think real estate deal). But when you’re negotiating for a job offer or as an entrepreneur working with suppliers, the person you’re negotiating with represents a relationship that you want to maintain – but also enhance. This calls for a different type of negotiation – integrative negotiation.

Integrative negotiation is collaborative in nature. It is an approach that recognizes that both people come from different starting points with different needs, but they want to land on an agreement that is mutually beneficial. The process is one of creativity, and of defining new value. While it can be about trading one thing for another, more often, it’s about deeply understanding each others’ needs and using the negotiation to solve those needs with a creative solution.

If distributive negotiation is about getting a bigger slice of pie, integrative negotiation is about making a bigger pie.

Who doesn’t love more pie? What I mean by this is that there are often highly valuable add-ons that can be brought into the negotiation, which provide important wins for each person, but which may not be a big deal to the other person. As an example, in a job negotiation, the salary might not be able to move beyond a certain point, but there might be opportunities for significant educational investment or additional paid time off. Each of these would have high value to you, but might be easy for the employer to say yes to, because they come out of different budgets or they have more flexibility on those items. Integrative negotiation is about integrating multiple opportunities and benefits into an elegant solution that makes you both happy.

No red hats please

Great negotiation starts with great relationships. And that means being your authentic, genuine, empathetic self. Women are most often criticized for overcompensating in a negotiation – for acting like a tough, aggressive opponent, rather than a collaborative negotiation partner. Trying to be something you are not rarely works in your favour. Pretending to be a tough negotiator when you really just want a fair deal is, quite frankly, a terrible idea.

I’ve written before about empathy and its importance in negotiation. As women, we have it in spades, because we were socialized to be kind and compassionate, to listen and try to help others. This is really effective in integrative negotiation. So don’t try to undermine your natural instincts.

It’s ok to want the other party to win too. It’s ok to want your new boss to like you. It’s ok to want to add value to the services you provide to your clients. It’s ok to want the other person to be happy. This is a completely reasonable – and attainable – outcome of integrative negotiation.

If you want to hear more about integrative negotiation, then listen to my recent podcast interview for the Empowerpreneurs Podcast with Kaïna Suny, who is based in Paris. This was a terrific long-form conversation, where we covered a lot of ground, including:

  • Why women see negotiation as intimidating
  • The difference between men and women in negotiation
  • The importance of negotiation for women entrepreneurs
  • Where women struggle when it comes to negotiation and how to prepare ourselves for negotiating

Keep learning!

If you are interested in growing your negotiation skills to increase your income, benefits, and opportunities, be sure to check out my digital and live Fearless Negotiation programs, which are designed specifically for women. If you’re not quite ready to dive in, then be sure to sign up below to get my weekly newsletter, which features information, education, and learning opportunities that can help you negotiate more effectively. It’s free and you can opt out at any time.

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