How to negotiate when you hate negotiating

In an ideal world, you wouldn't need to go negotiate. In an ideal world, the weather would be perfect, there would be no war, and your employer would simply say, “Hey, your value to our company has increased. Here's ten thousand dollars.”

If only, right? When it comes to earning more, negotiating is usually a necessary part of the equation. The negotiating masters among us have a serious leg up.

I do not have a leg up. In most circumstances, I dread negotiating. I'd rather watch paint dry than negotiate. I'd rather eat a chard smoothie. I'd rather give someone a ride to the airport at 8am on a Monday.

One thing that makes it worth enduring? That whole “making more money” thing.

Last year, I resolved to become a better negotiator. I vowed to do some research and put that research to use, with the comfort of knowing I would later write an article about it, so really, this was about work.

It paid off. I negotiated my way out of a pay cut. I negotiated better freelancing rates. I even walked off a car lot, sticking to my negotiating guns, only to have the dealership call me incessantly later that day, willing to accept my offer.

Each of those instances made me uncomfortable. I've gotten better, but I'm still shy when it comes to this kind of stuff. I envy people who have absolutely no problem with it and will negotiate anything and everything.

For the rest of us, here are some simple tips that you can easily try, even if you dread negotiating.

Aim High … And Low

Ever put out a number that the other person seemed to accept a little too quickly? It always makes you wonder: “Did I just lowball myself?”

A friend recently gave me this bit of helpful advice. If you have a bad habit of undervaluing yourself, you might consider tacking on a little extra next time you throw out a number. A lot of people underestimate their worth, so it helps to aim higher. The worst that can happen is — your offer is rejected. But you're probably better off erring on the side of overestimating.

Also, here's an interesting fact to keep in mind when mulling over your number. In Fearless Interviewing: How to Win the Job by Communicating with Confidence, author Marky Stein says that most employers usually have 15 to 20 percent more in their budget than they originally offer.

And, if you're buying something, aim low. “Prevention” magazine pointed to a study co-authored by Richard Larrick, Ph.D., a business professor at Duke University. In the study, Larrick found that negotiators usually have more room for haggling than they think.

If you're the buyer, Larrick suggests offering the seller 15 to 20 percent less than what you can really afford.

“For instance, if you absolutely can't spend more than $6,000 on a used car advertised at $7,000, try offering $5,100 (15 percent less than $6,000). Next: Explain why this price is reasonable (the car has a limited warranty or few of the extras you were hoping for).”

And, if you're the seller, do the reverse. Again, aim high.

“Make the initial price 15 percent more than what you'd accept — if you must get $6,000 for your car, offer it for around $7,000 — and have reasons why.”

Aiming high or low doesn't take a lot of work. Basically, it's just going with a more realistic number — one that's probably expected anyway.

Use an Exact Number

Here's an incredibly easy negotiating tip: Avoid round numbers. A study from Columbia Business School found that avoiding round numbers makes you more likely to leave the negotiation with a higher figure.

Via Forbes:

“…we may be losing out by getting stuck on multiples of five and ten, instead of breaking our salary requests into less-common fractions. In fact, if you zero in on a more unusual request, say, for $94,500 instead of $95,000, you may get closer to your goal in the final negotiation.”

Don't Talk About Your Finances

A while back, I wrote about the power of speaking up. I mentioned that, a couple of times, it's worked in my favor, when negotiating, to connect with the other party on a personal level. I used a couple of examples:

  • I once mentioned “my finances” to an employer.
  • I told my ISP I didn't have the budget to pay for their rate hikes.

But I was wrong (sorry, readers).

Most of the time, talking about your finances isn't a good idea when negotiating. As reader Anne pointed out:

“My only issue is making it personal when you ask for a raise. I always counsel against that. EVERYONE suffers from inflation, rent raises, etc. Your reason for asking for more money should be because of your skills, commitment, hard work, or because you have been undervalued compared to market levels.”

And most experts agree with Anne's comment. In a column for “U.S. News and World Report,” career and money reporter Rebecca Thorman writes:

“Unfortunately, it doesn't matter if you can't pay your mortgage, need to save for your child's education or want a new car. Your compensation is based on the value you provide to your employer, not your finances. If you feel compelled to tell your sad story, don't. Make sure to leave the personal issues out. Instead, try describing the immense potential you have to bring value to the company.”

This is another easy-as-pie tip for people who don't like to negotiate. In fact, it appeals to us the most, because it keeps things professional and practical rather than personal and emotional.

Ask at the Right Time

Timing is important in everything from relationships to stand-up comedy, so it's not surprising that timing can impact your salary negotiation.

A small negotiating decision anyone can make is to ask at the right time. According to Mint Life‘s Kelly Anderson, the “right time” is usually:

  • Earlier in the week (not Thursday or Friday)
  • Before lunch
  • With plenty of advance notice

Of course, these particulars might not be true for your situation. Maybe your boss is especially grouchy before lunch. Maybe you don't even work earlier in the week. The point is, it's important to consider timing when negotiating.

Know Your Stuff

Research is also crucial to successful negotiating — and anyone can do it, whether they have a strong personality or not. It helps to research:

  • Your company: Research your company's financial position. Abby Euler of Salary.com told “U.S. News“: “If the company is not meeting revenue goals, your salary request will most likely fall on deaf ears…Also, ask your manager or HR about when salary reviews happen, so that you can set a meeting at least a month prior to ask for a raise.”
  • Your position: If your company is big, they might be listed on Glassdoor. You can use the site to see what other employees in your position are earning. You can also research your job value in general.
  • Yourself: Dig up your past accomplishments. If you can quantify your contributions to the company, that can work in your favor.

Know Which Words to Avoid

You can negotiate more effectively by simply making small adjustments to your language. It's as easy as avoiding some simple words and phrases. Jacky Carter, Community Manager at LinkedIn, suggests you avoid the following:

  • Teen slang: In particular, Carter points to the tendency of making statements that sound like questions. For exmaple: “Like, I'm a great employee? And I think I deserve a raise?” It doesn't make you sound confident.

  • “I'm sorry”: Apologizing weakens your argument, Carter says. “Stay away from saying things like, ‘I'm sorry to ask for this, but I feel that I deserve a raise.'”

  • “My rate is X, but I'll take X.”: Carter says this is discounting your worth right out of the gate.

Negotiating still makes me cringe. I have a lot of respect for those who can do it aggressively, without backing down. My uncle once embarrassed the hell out of me at a car dealership by steadfastly arguing a price everyone — including my mother and I — thought was completely ridiculous. At the end of the tussle, we got the ridiculous price.

Then and there, I witnessed just how powerful negotiating can be, especially when you're strong and you don't really care what anyone thinks.

Not all of us have a strong personality about that sort of thing, though. It definitely pays to work at being more assertive, but there are a handful of really easy things you can do in the meantime.

I'm still learning to be assertive with my negotiating, but even these small changes have helped.

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Alix
Alix
6 years ago

Great post. I hate negotiating so much that every car I’ve bought has been a Saturn (because their custom was to have a straight-up price for each car, no haggling). Of course, they’re out of business now, so when I buy my next car I’ll have to do some negotiating. Arrgh! Hopefully that day is far in the future, but when I do go in to get a new (used) car, I’m going to bring someone with me who’s comfortable with negotiating, so I have a back-up in case I start to flounder.

Kristin Wong
Kristin Wong
6 years ago
Reply to  Alix

Good luck! You might find JD’s post on this to be helpful: https://www.getrichslowly.org/the-best-way-to-buy-a-new-car-2/

tysymo
tysymo
6 years ago
Reply to  Alix

One point to consider is that everyone who bought from Saturn or even CarMax today is essentially agreeing to play list price. It’s a clever sales ploy but they are really offering a very poor deal in exchange for simplified negotiations.

Maybe consider using a Costco like service or even one of the newer online car buying services next time. That should at least get you very close to dealer cost for your pricing.

Brian@ Debt Discipline
[email protected] Debt Discipline
6 years ago

Great tips. I believe it’s much easier to negotiate salary when applying for a new position. When already in a position many companies have certain guides line that are followed when it comes to raises. I still think its a good idea to discuss, even if it can’t be accomplished. It plants the seed in your bosses head.

Kristin Wong
Kristin Wong
6 years ago

I think you’re right. Some recent study (In fact, I think we talked about it here) found that not negotiating a starting salary can cost you hundreds of thousands of dollars over the course of your career. If you have trouble asking for stuff, this is a pretty motivating statistic.

Jon
Jon
6 years ago

Good tips. I’ll let you know if they work, as I’m about to enter negotiations with my employer regarding the value of the supervisory position which I’ve been performing in an “interim” capacity for several weeks, should they decide to confirm me in it.

Kate
Kate
6 years ago

I negotiate for a living! And I live in the Middle East, so even grocery shopping requires negotiation. It really does get easier with practice… A few tips: 1) Make sure you’re in the right headspace to negotiate. Even though I’m used to it, there are days when I go into a Middle Eastern market and just can’t handle it. I know then that I have to walk away and try another day, or I won’t get the best deal out of it. Make sure you are well-rested, well-fed, and can concentrate on the task at hand. 2) Don’t wait… Read more »

Anne
Anne
6 years ago
Reply to  Kate

@Kate,

Very interesting reply and very helpful. But as an American it sounds absolutely exhausting living in the Middle East with the constant bargaining. Of course it would be a cultural trait you are brought up with for the locals but still quite an adjustment for us Westerners.

Zambian Lady
Zambian Lady
6 years ago
Reply to  Anne

Hi Anne:

I agree that bargaining is a cultural issue. As a Zambian, I haggle with certain sellers eg. when I want to buy a painting from a market stall because it is a known fact that the first price they tell you is inflated (even more inflated if the buyer is white). However, I do not bargain in a chain store because that is not part of the culture.

Actually, bargaining is fun because you joke and chat with the seller.

Kate
Kate
6 years ago
Reply to  Anne

I grew up and started my career in North America, so I can appreciate how exhausting it really is! It’s definitely a very different way of doing business. There’s a few things that can help you get used it (other than of course “practice practice practice!”): 1) It’s not a fight. It’s coming to a mutually agreeable price. Negotiation doesn’t have to be a full-contact sport if you don’t want it to be. 2) In many (most?) cultures, negotiating is a relationship-building exercise. It’s a chance to chat, learn about someone’s family, build connections. You learn not to waste your… Read more »

Kristin Wong
Kristin Wong
6 years ago
Reply to  Kate

I especially like your point about not waiting until you reach your “breaking point” to negotiate. This puts you at an automatic disadvantage.

Beth
Beth
6 years ago
Reply to  Kate

Thank you for the nudge about the car 😉 I’ve been having a debate with myself: drive the nearly 13-year old car until it dies (and continue to save up $) or get rid of it in the near future while I have more time and less pressure to hunt for a good deal. (And while it’s worth something to sell or trade in!)

It would be a great fixer-upper for someone who had the skills and equipment to care for it. That someone, however, is not me!

Dave LaLonde
Dave LaLonde
6 years ago

These are great points! I agree with what was stated about the 15-20% rule, and the worst that could happen is a rejection. But as much as you should leave out personal information when asking for a raise, it never hurts to share a little snippet. Yes, your contributions and work will always be the biggest concern, but there is a difference between sharing a solid reason and sharing a sob story.

Aldo @ MDN
Aldo @ MDN
6 years ago

These are great tips that will help even the best of negotiators. I’ve been able to get a lot of good deals by negotiating. I’ve been told no a few times, but more often than not I get at least a few percentages off.

Babs
Babs
6 years ago

Good article & comments! There is some very helpful information here.

Melanie @ My Alternate Life
Melanie @ My Alternate Life
6 years ago

These are some really great tips! I also have a hard time negotiating. I have a nonprofit background and feel like I was groomed to be happy with what I get. I am now looking for more as I’ve heard my friends successes with negotiating. I think it’s so important to not bring up your personal situation (like for me with so much student loans), but make it about the work and why you deserve the raise.

Andrew E. Moffatt
Andrew E. Moffatt
6 years ago

Great negotiation tips Kristin Wong. Let me experiment, if that works. I will let you know! 😀

Thanks anyway!

Thomas Zinsavage
Thomas Zinsavage
6 years ago

I know it may be tough to negotiate. Actually I should say fighting that fear, but please do if you can. Simply because you never will know what could or can happen if you do not try for it. You also could take some time before approaching the situation to think about and map out how you want to do it. Breathe, stay calm, relax and go for it I say.

Griffin Financial
Griffin Financial
6 years ago

Hi,

Great article, I found this really helpful and would really benefit our customers too.

I completely agree with you, I think negotiating is necessary in situations and if you can save money thats a bonus! Yeah it can be uncomfortable at times but it could be worth while and help savings. Thanks for a great article this will definitely come in handy!

Thanks,

Griffin Financial

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