Beat the little voice of self-doubt

Jennifer Lawrence isn’t the only woman who’s shied away from a negotiation for fear of coming across as demanding, greedy or maybe even risking a really important relationship.

A woman sitting on a bench leaning over with her head down in grayscale.Too often this self-doubt forces us to compromise on what we really want, or at worst, puts us off even entering into negotiations in the first place. But if we don’t negotiate at all and simply give in, we’re the only one who misses out.

Negotiation isn’t just important at work, becoming an expert negotiator has the potential to transform every aspect of our lives from buying a car to agreeing who’s going to cook dinner tonight. Yes it can be uncomfortable, but we just need to bite the bullet and practice, because being able to negotiate isn’t a talent, it’s a skill anyone can learn so the more we practice, the better we’ll get.

Here are my five top tips for learning to beat this voice of self-doubt, and proving to yourself that you can do it.

1. Preparation

● The most important step happens before you even start to negotiate. It’s not just about preparing the defence to your proposal, it’s about preparing for every aspect of the negotiation. It goes without saying that the more prepared you are, the more confident you’ll feel. Ask yourself these questions: What do you want to achieve? If it’s more than one thing, what are your priorities? What must you achieve and at what point do you walk away from the deal? What are those things that you would quite like to achieve? What would you be willing to give up? What do you think the other parties’ objectives are, how important is this deal to them? Think about how you will be able to show that the other person’s needs can be met. Think about what other information you need to gather and research it thoroughly. Prepare a list of questions for the other party so you can get all the information you need from them before you make your proposal. Then come up with a strategy for how you’re going to get to the deal you want. The great thing about being really prepared is that it will free you up to be more flexible in your approach.

2. Don’t underestimate yourself and certainly don’t apologise

● For some reason, a lot of us assume we’re on the backfoot when we negotiate, which makes us more likely to concede when put under pressure. Think about your body language and never apologise before making a proposal, it puts the other party in the driving seat. If you can, always make the first proposal so you can anchor the negotiation to what you are looking to achieve. Never be afraid to ask for what you want, because as long as it’s credible, then you’re not going to look silly. If you have lower expectations going into a deal, you will always achieve a lower outcome.

3. Don’t give something up without getting something in return

• Just remember the mantra, “if you do x, then I’ll do y”. Apart from the fact that you get something out of the deal this way, it’s actually more satisfying for the other party if they have to earn it.

4. Stop and listen

• We are often guilty of using up all our energy making sure we’ve said everything we’d planned to say, or second guessing what the other party is thinking and offering concessions unnecessarily. Remember to stop, listen and ask open questions to get the information you need. To buy yourself time, it’s a good idea to summarise what’s been agreed or said so far, and if you don’t feel you’re getting anywhere, perhaps ask, “under what circumstances would we be able to get a deal?” as it might unlock the discussion.

5. Don’t take it personally
Marina Banks standing infront of a mural wall of books on a shelf in a black jacket

● We’ve all been there when you’re negotiating and someone pulls the emotional card on you. They might try tomake you feel guilty or at worst be rude. Use this to your advantage to think about why they are behaving in this way. It might tell you something about their motivations or something else going on that you’re not aware of. Most importantly, don’t take it personally, because that’s when it’s tempting to panic and give in. Stick with it!

Author – Marina Banks, Head of Account Management, Ogilvy & Mather London

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