how to negotiate

Being a good negotiator can make a big difference to anyone’s career. Yet for working mothers (and working parents, overall), knowing how to negotiate successfully is critical to balancing work, family and everything in between.

By negotiating you can get what you want, but more importantly, it can help you get what you need – be it more balance, a pay raise, more flexibility in your schedule, a specific project, the option to work from home or more help around the house.

Negotiating makes even the best of us uncomfortable, leaving our stomachs lurching and our palms sweaty. The best cure, however, is confidence. And that starts with creating a plan that will help you thoughtfully engage with others, so you can come together to find a solution that will meet both of your needs.

These questions will help:

1. Why is this important?

Too many of us belittle the things we need or want. This mindset can get in the way of our negotiations, and often times, stop it before it even begins.

As a first step, take time to crystallize your ask. What precisely do you need or want? From here, take time to consider why this is important to you. Before you can convince anyone else, you’ll have to convince yourself why this is important to you or your family, how it will solve an issue you are struggle with, help you be more productive or position you to advance your career.

2. How will this benefit them?

True negotiating success starts when you consider your situation from the other party’s point of view. So, take time to consider how your ask will benefit them, support their goals, or position them to advance. If, for example, you’re asking to work from home one day a week, your manager will benefit from having you dedicate more uninterrupted hours to a key project. It may also be an opportunity to demonstrate his leadership skills.

3. Why do you deserve this?

Women, especially those who negotiate, walk a very fine tight rope. We have to be careful not to seem too entitled or too greedy. The best way to do this is to present the facts. What company policies support your ask? Check in with others on your team or in your department who may have negotiated similar terms and learn how they did it.

As you undergo this research, consider how or why you are worthy of your ask. As you do, collect metrics and examples that will demonstrate you are not asking for anything that is beyond what you deserve. At the same time, you’ll want to carefully consider how or why you don’t qualify for your ask so you can prepare to respond accordingly should it come up in your discussion.

If your ask is outside the norm of company policies or customs, take time to benchmark your ask with other companies. You can do this by asking friends or former colleagues to comment on your ask.

4. What are possible alternatives?

Flexibility is key in a negotiation. You may have a specific ask in mind, but be sure to take time to think through alternatives that may offer similar benefits. The research you performed in the last step will come in handy here as you can consider the terms others were able to successfully achieve.

You’ll also want to be flexible in your approach. Going back to our earlier example about telecommuting, your manager may not be ready to agree to a permanent schedule, but they may be willing to try things out for a few months.

As you consider your alternatives, be sure to think about your “walk away” point – the very minimum you’ll accept before you’ll stop negotiating.

5. Who else can influence your negotiations?

A little help from our friends can go a long way. If your getting ready for a tricky negotiation, it may help to get others on your side ahead of your meeting. Check in with mentors and sponsors, as well as others in your network that may hold sway over your negotiating partner. As you do, get their take on your request as well as their advice on how to successfully navigate negotiations.

Such a strategy can go a long way in helping gain your manager’s agreement. However, you want to be sure not to appear to be going above your manager’s head. So be sure to approach these discussions with care and with the aim to better position you for success.

Too often we take a no as the end of a conversation; rather than the start of a negotiation. By considering these questions you can engage in thoughtful dialogue that can get you closer to what you want and need to make life work as a working mom.

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