There’s no way around it: Negotiating is a crucial — and often anxiety-provoking — step toward earning the salary you deserve.
But you can increase your chances for success with the right strategies, according to Know Your Value founder and “Morning Joe” co-host Mika Brzezinski, her “Earn It” co-author Daniela Pierre-Bravo and United Nations negotiation trainer Alexandra Carter.
The three women shared their own experiences and hard-won tips during a “Negotiation Power Hour” during a Know Your Value Clubhouse on Wednesday afternoon.
“It’s information and data that makes [women] feel confident” when going into a negotiation, said Brzezinski during the event, which coincided with the anniversary of the release of Carter’s bestselling book “Ask for More: 10 Questions to Negotiate Anything.”
Research shows women face a gender gap in negotiation, especially when it comes to discussions around salary. Deeply ingrained societal gender roles that encourage women to be accommodating can cause friction against the assertiveness needed for a successful negotiation, according to researchers at Harvard Law School. Taken together, individual salary setbacks contribute to a persistent wage gap in which women on average make 85 percent of what men earn.
Here are some key tips to keep in mind during your next big negotiation:
1. Negotiations start before you even enter the room.
“By the time you get in the room with somebody, it's more than half over, because the first negotiation you have in any circumstance is the one with yourself,” Carter said. She said the best questions to ask yourself during an “internal negotiation” focus on figuring out what you need from the other person, what would make you happy to do the work that’s being discussed, what problems you would be solving for the other person by doing the work and how you see your own value.
“Ask yourself a few powerful questions because asking for more is not even about the particular number. It's first knowing that you are worth the ask. And if you know — that is, if you know your value — then you'll be able to go in and claim it once you're in there,” Carter said.
The prep work doesn’t stop there. One of Carter’s best pieces of advice needs to be done before you walk in the room, too. “Right before you go in, I want you to write down — and the key is you have to write this down — a prior time that you felt successful. Maybe it's the last time you asked for your value, maybe it was having achieved something with a client. It could even be an unrelated success. But research shows that if people go into a negotiation having written down a prior success, they're more likely to negotiate better.”
2. Focus on what you can control, and let go of what you can’t.
“In every negotiation … there are things that you can control and there are things that are outside of your control,” Carter said. “I am all about doing the things that I can control. What's the part of the messaging I can get right? What's the part of thinking about the value that I can bring to the other person? And then from there, you know what happens, happens.”
One Clubhouse audio participant noted there’s a tendency among women to “up-speak” when they’re talking, using a tone that’s usually reserved for questions, to make statements. To some, it can come off as a lack of confidence, and it can take the gravitas out of authoritative statements.
“The one thing I say to women is no one can speak for you. You have to start speaking for yourself,” Brzezinski said, talking about the benefit of a having a strong voice and practicing it in public.
“The up talk immediately exudes a little bit of youth, or I would say an insecurity in what one is saying. It's like asking ‘Am I okay?’ every second,” Brzezinski said. “And we've got to learn to develop a stronger ground to stand on it when it comes to [using] our voice from the get go in a negotiation.”
One of Carter's favorite recommendations is to replace the phrase “I think” with the confidence-exuding “I know.”
“It’s about knowing that you have a powerful message worth sharing and not feeling as though you need to dilute that,” Carter said.
3. Look at it from the other person’s perspective.
Joe Scarborough, Brzezinski’s husband and “Morning Joe” co-host, made an appearance during the Clubhouse event and stressed the importance of looking at your big ask through the other person’s lens.
“Before you go in and just ask for a raise or ask for something, really think strategically, ‘How do I win? How do they win?’” Scarborough said. “I never walk in where I'm trying to make a big deal unless I've already figured out what the other person needs and how I can give them it.”
Carter called this technique “writing the other person’s victory speech.” Reframing your thoughts from the other person’s perspective, she said, helps you stand behind what you’re asking for because you know the other person is going to benefit from it.
“The way that you can write the other person's victory speech is by asking a lot of strategic questions up front,” Carter said. “Who are the different players? What do these folks need? You know, sometimes they need to feel like they really squeezed the stone and they got everything out of you. And if that's what they need, I like to find a way to deliver that while also getting what I need.”
4. Get comfortable with being uncomfortable.
“If a negotiation ends up uncomfortable, you did your job,” Pierre-Bravo remembered Brzezinski telling her earlier in her career.
Carter suggested taking a pause after saying what you want during a negotiation. Then, she said, try and resist the urge to talk over the silence — as uncomfortable as that might be. She called it “landing the plane.”
“So often people will say, ‘Well, here's what I need to make this work.’” Then they quickly go into, “‘But if you can't do that, we can certainly talk and I'm willing to be flexible.’ They bid against themselves by filling up the room with a number of words.”
Instead, she encouraged women to use silence to their advantage.
“It's extremely powerful,” Carter said. “And if you're nervous, silence can be your best friend, because sometimes you do more by doing less, and just allowing the other person time to really consider. And very often, they're going to come back and give you more.”
5. Learn to ‘press reset and move on’
Knowing when to walk away from the negotiation and moving on is a crucial step toward building the resilience to do it again and again.
“It's important to be like, ‘You know what, that didn't work, so what?’ Or, ‘You know what? That was a bad moment with that person, so what?’” Brzezinski said. “Learn to press reset and move on because negotiating is about having some really tough moments and then moving on and working together.”