I used to think of negotiating as embarrassing. I would duck my head as my friend fought over jewelry prices in Tijuana during a high school trip across the border. Negotiating was this thing my parents would do that would embarrass me, bickering over prices… I thought it was incredibly awkward. (I was the girl who paid way too much for the cute bag from the vendors on the streets of Florence because I didn’t want to have that conversation.) As I got older I realized that at times, this might be a skill I needed to be confident in. As I struggled with what is acceptable to say and do as I balanced job offers out of college, friends and family helped me understand how to negotiate in a professional and acceptable manner. What I’m trying to say here is that I used to feel impolite and cheap but over time I have come to learn how incredibly valuable the art of negotiating really is.
Let’s refresh, negotiation is a dialogue intended to resolve disputes, to produce an agreement upon courses of action, to bargain for individual or collective advantage, or to craft outcomes to satisfy various interests. So the conclusion I have come to is that negotiating is an incredibly strategic ability, one that you will highly benefit from mastering. Yes, fighting with the sales man at Verizon over the price of the new Blackberry Storm may not be the best choice of practicing your negotiation skills — there are the right times and places to strategically strike a deal. Andrew Finkle boldly says, “make no mistake about it EVERYTHING can be negotiated.” And I think there is so much truth in that statement. (See his blog for great insight on negotiation as an art.) The book “Nice Girls Don’t Get Rich: 75 Avoidable Mistakes Women Make With Money” talks about how many woman miss out on bonuses, raises, and benefits because they are timid when it comes to negotiating and asking for benefits that they may deserve (things men often aren’t as shy to ask for). It was when I read this that I started to realize how important the skill of negotiation would become for me in my career. I have since done my best to never be too shy to ask about perks or benefits that I could be qualified for. I learned this isn’t pushy or greedy, but SMART.
On the other hand, I am by no means advocating using dirty tricks or manipulation because that can undermine trust and damage longstanding relationships when it comes to business negotiations. Playing dirty can obviously harm important business relationships which is why you must always have good sportsmanship when it comes to negotiating in a professional environment. Honesty and openness are almost always the best policies in the working world. Mind Tools: Excellent Skills for an Excellent Career’s Win Win Negotiation article talks about all of this and even goes into detail about how to prepare for a successful negotiation.
Remember the Friend’s episode where Chandler wanted to quit the gym? “I wanna quit the gym!” That was a fun negotiation to watch fail miserably… especially when he ended up staying at the gym and adding a joint checking account with Ross at the bank. But seriously, the gym is a good example — don’t be afraid to play the game until you’ve been offered a fair deal! I recently went through this while joining a new gym and what did I learn once again? Don’t be afraid to negotiate!