14 Jolly Useful Negotiation Tips for Women

Picture © Keepcalm-o-matic.co.uk

I signed up to a course on negotiation for women, and the timing could not have been better. Currently I am negotiating a contract that would give me a nice little earner. I suspect, however that the company who approached me, has a lower budget than I am prepared to accept.

So I left it to them to pitch a price. However, when I read their email this morning, I was tempted to scream: ‘You cannot be serious’ a la John McEnroe.*

Of course, there is a cheaper supplier that we both know about. And while I sense that this company would prefer me, the cheaper supplier might be ‘good enough’ for them.

My initial instinct was to ping an email straight back saying: ‘this is my price and terms, and no offers’. As they say in German, I would be talking ‘klartext’. ** But as Matthias Schranner told us: “Negotiation is just a game that we take seriously” and seeing as I love to play. This game is On.

‘Negotiation is just a game that we take seriously,’ Matthias Schranner

And what else will I do differently that I learned from the seminar?

The 14 Commandments of Playful Negotiations.

1. Know what you really, really want (as the Spice Girls might sing).
I need to be clear on my aim. This includes both:

  • The price I want to charge (and the payment terms).
  • The price where I will walk away. In German this is aptly called the “Schmerzgrenze” (pain threshold).

Thus my aim in the negotiation is not necessarily to reach agreement, but to see if they will pay my minimum price.

2. Keep the agenda focussed on your negotiation aim.
Be careful not to be drawn away of the discussion. A useful phrase is: ‘I came her to talk about the price. Can we get back to that?’

3. Leave wiggle room: don’t box yourself into a corner.
If I had sent them this curt reply (“This is my price and no offers”) – I would have boxed myself into a corner. I would not be able to bring down the price without losing face. It would be Game Over; and I would have effectively wasted my time on the courtship.

4. Choose your best weapon for the duel.
In this case, I will call him, rather than reply by email. Why? I am more persuasive in person, than by email. I will also speak English, not German. If negotiation is a game, and as English is my mother tongue, it is my stronger weapon.

Conversely, an Italian who is not confident in her spoken English, and who has to negotiate with a silver-tongued English solicitor, might be better off relying on a carefully crafted email, than a phone call.

5. Ask for more than your ideal asking price.
To keep it simple, let’s say I want to earn 10 CHF per hour. Then I need to ask for at least 11 CHF per hour, or even 13 or 15 CHF. Why? As then I can go down to 10 CHF per hour. It is important to remember that your opponent also likes to feel that they have secured a good deal.

Your opponent also likes to feel that they have secured a good deal.

6. Keep your emotional power.
Truthfully, I was insulted by their offer. But I can also choose not to be insulted. Similarly, if I had sent that email, there would have been an undertone of anger, it showed that I was annoyed. But by showing my feelings in the negotiation, I would have “given away my power”.

Of equal importance is to show respect for your sparring partner. It can be easy to dislike people, especially if they are trying to get us cheap, but it will be equally easy for your negotiation partner to sense if you dislike them; and this will not help you agree a deal.

Show respect for your sparring partner.

7. Ask for additional benefits, including ones that will not cost them any money.
For example, I could ask the company to recommend me to others. This will come at no financial cost to them, and it will deliver considerable value to me.

8. Keep some ‘sweetener’ up your sleeve that you can add to your offer.
In this case, there is something of value that I can offer them that is easy for me to deliver. I will save this as a ‘sweetener’ if the negotiation gets stuck. With luck, I may not even need it.

9. Don’t try and persuade your opponent that you are right.
Don’t confuse your opinion with the truth. ‘We see the world as we are, not as it is, or as to how we have been conditioned to see it,’ said Stephen Covey, author of the best-selling “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”.

‘We see the world as we are, not as it is,’ Stephen Covey

Also it is important to keep in mind that a small minority of your negotiation partners will possibly have personality disorders, and thus will have a skewed view of the world.

10. Don’t talk about the past.
This is particularly relevant when negotiating with loved ones, where many of us feel tempted to wave past sins in their face. While this is highly effective at enraging our loved ones, it is stunningly ineffective as a negotiation tactic.

11. Keep it positive: choose your language carefully.
Keeping language constructive and positive is probably easier in English than in German. As the diplomatic languages have been English and French, thus both the languages are richer in this highly-nuanced area of conflict-resolution; and, the people who have these languages as a mother tongue are often better skilled at trotting out phrases like:

‘That is a wonderful idea, and I have one small concern’.

‘I would love to reach agreement on this. I think what you are asking for is reasonable, however, my hands are tied by the Board’.

If someone makes an unreasonable offer, a good reply is: ‘We both know that this won’t work’ – said in a conciliatory tone.

And three final points of my own.

12. Superb negotiators tend to talk little and listen very well.

The biggest mistake that most people make in life and in negotiation is getting stuck in a pre-Copernicus mindset, i.e. thinking that the world revolves around them. There are always at least two players at a table and each person has good reasons for thinking the way they do.

Listen and understand your opponent’s needs and values, and this will help you negotiate better. You have an agenda and so do they. The more you listen, and the less you talk, the easier it will to glean information that is relevant for you, and the less you will give away. (Remember, it’s a game!)

13. Focus more on the market and less on what you feel you deserve.

I believe that some women make the mistake of making only ‘reasonable’ demands when it comes to price. They can get hung up on their ‘deservability’ and become blind to the fact that price is largely determined by supply and demand, simple economics if you will. If many people can do what you do, your billable price will be low. If very few people can do what you do, you can charge a great deal.

I say this, as I have seen several women who are superbly qualified, but who – when asked about salary expectations – make a ‘fair’ offer. It makes sense of course, to research the market and see what people like you are earning. But there is no one exactly like you, so remember this at the negotiation table.

And of course, while you don’t want to put off a future employer with an outrageous demand, however as suggested in point 5 above: always ask for more than your ideal price. Ask for your salary expectation plus a minimum of 10-20%. (So important we say it twice in the one article!) And if they don’t offer you more money, ask for something else of value (point 7).

The reasons why some women get hung up on ‘deservability’ can be varied and complex. It can be a concern that: they are only available to work part-time; they are younger; they are older etc. But while the reasons might seem valid to them, they can be irrelevant to the discussion. And the result? These women who make ‘fair offers,’ will invariably wind up earning a fair bit less than their asking price.

Good negotiators, on the other hand, are more inclined to ask for what they will get away with and leave wiggle room where they can come down.

14. Practice, practice, practice.
Just like the perfect golf swing, most things in life are practice. Going into a difficult negotiation? Get a friend, associate or coach to practice with. Ask them to bring counter-arguments.

Aim for progress in your negotiation style, not perfection.

As for my own personal example, I don’t know if I will get what I want this time. But I see it differently now:

  • Not winning this contract is not a failure, however agreeing to do it at below my minimum price is a failure.
  • And if they agree at the agreed price, it is a win for me.
  • And if they don’t agree to pay my minimum price, I can still ask them to recommend me. We will still be on good terms, I will still have been respectful.

This is significant progress from the lose/ lose situation that would have happened if I had replied with my short and not-so-sweet ‘take-it-or-leave it’ email. And whether I win the contract or not, either way, I will have had fun with this. An American might even call this new approach a Win/Win.

Like this article? Please love it, or share it on social media. Comments welcome. Thank-you!

* Don’t know John McEnore? Watch this 45 second video
for some 1980’s Wimbledon magic.

** Speaking “klartext” means speaking clearly, with no ambiguity, e.g, “get the job done”.

About the Schranner Negotiation Institute.

This institute provides training and consultancy on negotiation and conflict resolution to political organisations, businesses, corporate organisations and more. Courses are available in both German and English.

This negotiation for women course is running again in October 2018 in Vienna, Zurich, and London.

Nualan O'Brien
Nualan O'Brien
Nualan O’Brien has a background in online content development, and freelance journalism; and has also lectured at the Dublin Institute of Technology, Ireland. Read more...


  1. Kostas says:

    Great Article!

  2. Máire says:

    Very interesting … And useful in many aspects of living

  3. Patricia says:

    Sound advice, and timely, as I have an opportunity coming up to use these strategies. Thank you Nualan.

  4. Mania says:

    Well said and written!

  5. Niamh says:

    I loved this article. There are lots of useful points that I intend to use in the future. Niamh

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