The Terms of Agreement

Conflict and negotiation is not new to this nation. What the Fiscal Cliff teaches us about getting along. 

How to Negotiate with the Terminator

Be prepared, be confident, be willing to walk away.

Can you succeed at negotiating while remaining authentic and advancing your relationship with the other party? How about if you see yourself as the less powerful one? Yes on both counts, according to Lee E. Miller and his daughter Jessica Miller, coauthors of the recently released A Woman's Guide to Successful Negotiating: How to Convince, Collaborate, & Create Your Way to Agreement. We all need to negotiate to get the compensation, the client, the deal, the workspace, and even the small things we want each day. And we don't always get to pick our negotiating partners.

If you're an introvert, you may find fast paced, high stakes negotiations particularly challenging because thinking out loud is not your forte. How do women fare at the negotiating table? "Women often think that good negotiators act tough, scream, know all the tricks, and outsmart their opponents." But that is not true, assert the Millers.

To make matters worse, women are underpaid and many shy away from negotiating. In fact, a study of the job negotiations of graduating professional school students found that male students were eight times more likely to negotiate starting salaries and pay than female students. Another study revealed that when asked to pick metaphors for the process of negotiating, men picked "winning a ballgame," while women picked "going to the dentist." Which would you pick as an introvert? I invited the Millers to share some of the secrets to working out a good deal with just about anyone.

NA: Let's start with the tough stuff. How can you negotiate with someone you find intimidating?
LM and JM: Understand that no one can intimidate you if you don't let them.

NA: That sounds good. But what can you actually do to connect to your power even if you feel as if you're the weaker party in a negotiation?
LM and JM: If you have a good backup plan and are willing to walk away, you will find that you have a lot of power even if you don't think you do. No one negotiates with you unless you have something they want. Always remember that and you will be able to negotiate effectively.

NA: How can you avoid getting drowned out by someone louder than you?
LM and JM: Just let them talk until they get tired. Then quietly and firmly state your position.

NA: What if they other party interrupts you?
LM and JM: Wait until they finish, then state your position. If you stay calm, unruffled, and don't back down, they will soon tire of trying to intimidate you. Quiet, firm confidence is the key. Humor can also work wonders.

NA: How can an introvert build her or his negotiating skills to excel even in a fast-paced environment?
LM and JM: First of all, negotiating is a learned skill. No one is born a great negotiator. We all have to learn how. Take a negotiating course. Read a book on the subject.

NA: I can think of one book that would be useful!
LM and JM: Even once you are a good negotiator, when you need time to respond, you can always take a break.

NA: You describe how women benefit from virtual negotiating in the chapter you wrote on that topic in your book. Introverts, who prefer to compose their thoughts before sharing them and who often like to express themselves in writing, would benefit from that chapter as well.
LM and JM: Yes. Two advantages of negotiating virtually are that it gives you time to formulate a response and the ability to seek help when you need it.

NA: What are the three keys to negotiating success for women?
LM and JM: Be prepared, be confident, and be willing to walk away. While most women are good at doing their preparation, often they fall down when it comes to the latter two.

NA: Those key principles apply equally well to introverts, who benefit from preparing for most important interactions since they're less inclined to come up with their best stuff out loud on the spot.
LM and JM: Agreed.

NA: What role does confidence play?
LM and JM: Everyone lacks confidence when they are learning to do something. So the key to exhibiting confidence is to project it even when you are not really confident. Being prepared helps but you have to act like you know what you are doing even when you don't.

NA: How do you do that?
LM and JM: Psyche yourself up before you begin, take a deep breath, exhale and relax, smile, use positive body language, speak slowly, and project your voice. Never waiver in the fairness and appropriateness of the positions you are taking.

NA: You stressed the importance of being willing to walk away if you don't get what you need.
LM and JM: Yes. No deal is better than a bad deal-and saying, "no," is often the first step to getting what you want. Having a good backup plan makes it easier to say "no." That should be an important part of your preparation.

NA: What is the importance of being authentic as a negotiator?
LM and JM: It is critical to be authentic when you negotiate. People can always tell when you are not and you will lose credibility if you are phony. That said, we advise in the book to "be yourself but be the best self you can be."

NA: What do you mean by that?
LM and JM: You need to do the right thing depending on who you are dealing with and what the circumstances are, even if it is out of your comfort zone. So if you are buying a car, even if you are naturally collaborative, that approach won't work. You need to be firm, know what you want, say, "no," if you don't get it, and be willing to walk away.

NA: How can you be authentic while doing what you said earlier, acting confident even if you're not quite there yet?
LM and JM: Know where you want to go. Have your reasons why the other person should be willing to give you what you are asking for. Then do not waiver in your position. Be willing to walk away if you don't get what you want. If you show that you are willing to walk away (nicely, of course), you will project confidence.

NA: Can anyone learn to become a great negotiator?
LM and JM: Yes. Women are not at a disadvantage when they negotiate. Neither are introverts. They may have to negotiate differently from men and/or extroverts but they bring certain advantages of their own to the bargaining table, such as the ability to listen and empathize. The key is to learn how to harness your advantages.

I'll conclude with some tactics that Lee E. Miller shared when I interviewed him for my book, Self-Promotion for Introverts®: "You have to understand what I call the 'U perspective' of the other people. If they're all about winning, then let them win. Start from a place much further from where you want to end. This way,' he continues, 'you can give up more without sacrificing what's important to you, and they feel like they're 'winning.' Another way is to ask people for help, as opposed to making them feel that they're in competition with you. Doing so short circuits the winner-loser dynamic.' Of course, when you can't avoid people with aggressive negotiating styles, arm yourself with the facts, stay calm and grounded, and always have your BATNA, or best alternative to a negotiated agreement, lined up."

REFERENCES:
Lee E. Miller and Jessica Miller, A Woman's Guide to Successful Negotiating: How to Convince, Collaborate, & Create Your Way to Agreement, McGraw-Hill, second edition, 2011, p. 19.

Nancy Ancowitz, Self-Promotion for Introverts®: The Quiet Guide to Getting Ahead, McGraw-Hill, 2009, p. 215.