10 Tips for Women on How to Negotiate

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10 Negotiation Tips for Women

Tips from "A Woman's Guide to Successful Negotiating."

In my previous post, "Gender Pay Gap Culprit: Lousy Negotiating Skills," I wrote about my recent discussion with Lee Miller, a longtime human resources executive and career consultant. I noted that Miller has connected the dots between the fact that women receive lower pay than their male counterparts and the notion that woman are less skilled at negotiating compared to men. Fortunately, Miller and his daughter Jessica have gone beyond the dot-connecting.


In 2002, Lee and Jessica Miller wrote the book, "A Woman's Guide to Successful Negotiating," and an extensively updated second edition has just been released. Here are 10 tips extracted from the book on how women can improve their effectiveness in achieving their aims through negotiation:


  • Be yourself. To be successful, choose a negotiating style that makes you feel comfortable and reflects who you are. If you aren't authentic, people will see right through it, and you will lose all credibility.
  • Understand that it doesn't hurt to ask. The biggest mistake women make is to not negotiate. Many women look at situations in terms of decisions they have to make, not opportunities to negotiate. They either accept the offer or turn it down. Successful women understand that almost everything is negotiable.
  • Negotiate for yourself as if you were negotiating for someone else. Because women tend to view things in the context of relationships, they take things personally. Asking for things for themselves becomes more difficult because if they are turned down, they see it as a personal rejection.
  • Master the details, but be flexible. Preparation often enables women to get the respect they need to negotiate on a level playing field with men. But don't get so mired in the details that you lose sight of your ultimate goal. Just because you know something doesn't mean everyone needs to know it.
  • Avoid the empathy trap. Women tend to be better listeners than men and to more readily grasp the other side's position. Empathy is about understanding others' needs, not necessarily about giving them what they want, especially at the expense of protecting your own interests.
  • Be willing to say no. "No" is the most powerful word in negotiating, but many women have difficulty saying it. They want to keep everyone happy, to avoid conflict, to be liked, and to please. To be a good negotiator, you must be able to say no with firmness and credibility.
  • Don't be emotional. Negotiations can bring out a range of emotions, including anger at perceived insults. You can't negotiate effectively in an emotional state of mind, so don't try. If you need a few moments to regain your composure, suggest to the other party that you take a break.
  • Don't be afraid to break the rules. We often do things because that's the way they've always been done. In negotiating, there are no rules unless all the parties agree on them. You do not have to play by someone else's rules when you negotiate. You can create the rules.
  • Lighten up. Humor is used when you negotiate not just to get a laugh, but also to ease the tension. Women often think they won't be taken seriously if they joke around, but most women run a bigger risk of being perceived as humorless. Remember that sometimes it pays to laugh, even when a joke isn't particularly funny.
  • Accept human nature. When you negotiate, you must take into consideration the other party's biases. You can't change other people-your job is to understand them so you can figure out how best to achieve your objectives. When negotiating with men, just being a woman can be advantageous. But understand that if you use your sexuality, you create an expectation that the flirtation will continue.