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How to Negotiate with Confidence

For a long time, I found the word “negotiation” intimidating. I use the past tense here, because after reading countless books and attending countless workshops on the topic, I’m much more comfortable with the idea of negotiating. 

If you’re a woman who has a hard time negotiating, I have two book recommendations for you:   

Women Don’t Askand Ask For It by Linda Babcock and Sarah Laschever. I remember nodding my head in agreement as I read in the first book that when women were asked to choose a metaphor to describe the negotiation process, many of them compared it to going to the dentist. In contrast, men likened negotiations to a sporting event, i.e., “winning a ballgame” or “a wrestling match.” 

I also familiarized myself with the different negotiation styles. For a deep dive into this topic, I suggest checking out another favorite book of mine (I told you – countless books and workshops…): Bargaining for Advantage: Negotiations Strategies for Reasonable People by Richard Shell. Shell not only introduces the reader to the five negotiations styles, he provides a quiz to help you determine which one is most natural for you.   

The Five Negotiation Styles and How to Use Them 

Bargaining situations are not one-size-fits-all. Different types of negotiations require different approaches. Understanding the five negotiation styles will help you prepare ahead of time so you can approach any negotiation from a position of power. 

1. Competitive: I win. / You lose.   

What it looks like: Assertive and uncooperative. Competitive negotiation is often what comes to mind when we think of negotiation, but it is a very naïve view. Negotiation is rarely this simple. 

When to use it: Use competitive negotiating in one-off negotiations where you are not expecting to have a long-term relationship with the other side, such as buying a car. 

2. Accommodating:  I lose. / You win.   

What it looks like: Unassertive, cooperative. Think of that coworker you love, who is generous with products, services, their time, and their energy. They’re willing to help and to give others credit.  

When to use it: Use accommodating negotiating when you want to strengthen your relationship with the other person. This style is useful when you are at fault or in a weak position. 

3. Avoiding: You lose. / I lose.   

What it looks like: Unassertive, but cooperative. Avoiding conflict, either intentionally or for passive-aggressive reasons.  

When to use it: Sometimes, during negotiations, emotions run high. When the value of what you’re negotiating for is no longer the focus, the best thing to do is take a break. Avoiding also make sense when the potential benefit is not worth the time. 

4. Compromising: We both win some and lose some.   

What it looks like: Haggling. Unassertive and uncooperative. Some people think compromise is what negotiations are all about, but this is surface-level negotiating. 

When to use it: Compromise when you reach a point where you have little else to offer.   

5. Collaborating:  We both win.   

What it looks like: Assertive and cooperative. Often referred to as “expanding the pie,” collaborative negotiating is about finding the situations which are best for both sides.   

When to use it: When the relationship is important and there is opportunity to create shared value.  

So, wouldn’t you always want to default to collaborating?  Not necessarily. Every negotiation situation involves different variables, including the relationships between the two sides, the leverage that one side may or may not have, and the time allotted to reach an agreement.    

Download Forté’s guide to negotiations for an overview of the five negotiation styles. 


3 Negotiation Tips from the Forté Community 

During the Leadership Coach webinar on negotiating, attendees participated in peer coaching sessions that included a collaborative negotiation challenge and the opportunity to swap tips for successful negotiations. The helpful advice included: 

  • Know your market. Whether you’re negotiating for an entry-level salary or your next raise, do your research beforehand. Instead of picking a number at random, make sure you can back it up.  You’ll feel more confident, and make a stronger case for yourself
  • Find a sponsor at the company.  You’re more likely to get what you want if you have someone who can advocate for you when you’re not in the room. If you’re meeting with a company about a potential role, check if anyone in your network has a contact there. Even if they’re in a different department, they may be able to provide insights about the company culture or answer other questions you have. 
  • Know what you bring to the table. Not sure what you have to offer? Get input from friends and colleagues. Ask people who know you well what you bring to the table, and listen to what they have to say. Once you recognize your own value, you’ll be in a better place to negotiate. 


Take Charge of Your Future 

For more leadership guidance, consider participating in the Rise Leadership Program. This three-month virtual program is dedicated to helping mid-career women move their careers forward by focusing on their own leadership strengths. Rise is built on the premise that leadership starts from within. Learn from leadership experts and executive coaches as you develop an authentic leadership style that suits your skills and personality. Interested in being part of our next cohort? Apply now! 

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