Whether you hope to get a deal on a new car, secure a well-deserved pay rise or need your partner to meet you halfway on how to spend the savings (gin-tasting weekend, anyone?), getting what you want often requires some negotiation. But that process can be a challenge, particularly for women. In a new study, psychology professor Katherine McAuliffe found that from the age of just eight, girls are more likely to ask for less than boys in a negotiation.
This pattern was repeated in the adult world, which could explain why many of us are still paid less than our male colleagues for the same work. So, after underselling ourselves all our lives, it’s time to unleash your confidence, tell the world what you really, really want and clinch the deal you’re entitled to. We’ve gathered a team of experts to share some helpful – and surprisingly easy – methods to transform you from negotiating novice into persuasive pro.
Start at the end
‘Your mindset is vital when it comes to any negotiation,’ says business coach Kelly Swingler. ‘So, before you enter any negotiation, think about how you want to feel by the end of it. My guess is that you’ll want to feel triumphant and content. Spending time harnessing that feeling will give you the impetus to keep pressing until you achieve it.’
Fix your gaze
‘When negotiating matters of the heart in particular, eye contact can make all the difference,’ says psychologist Meg Arroll. ‘But in tricky conversations, it can be hard to achieve. This twist on a mindfulness technique takes the pressure off: Focus on the colour and pattern of your partner’s eyes. You may notice that the appearance of the iris is complex – a kaleidoscope of colours and patterns with pigmented rings, crypts and furrows. Once you’ve investigated one aspect of the eye, look away, then focus on another. Give it a go – you might be surprised by your partner’s response.
Lower your tone
“It can be tempting to raise your voice to come across as confident in a negotiation. However, confident people often speak with a quieter and lower tone, which requires others to focus on what they are saying” Nicola Urquhart, careers lecturer, University of Kent.
Enjoy sweet silence
“Many of us want to fill the awkward silence at all costs. However, it’s not to be feared in a negotiation – it’s during the silence that your request will be considered, so let it be” says Urquhart.
Squeeze those cheeks
‘In any negotiation, keeping nerves in check is key,’ says Arroll. ‘A colleague shared this tip with me many years ago and I use it to this day. If you start to feel your heart racing and your hands trembling during a negotiation, clench your buttocks! You can use other muscle groups, such as your thighs or toes, but I find buttocks work best. Subtly tightening and releasing your muscles helps eliminate noticeable signs of anxiety, such as shaky hands, giving you a stronger negotiating position.’
Be an optimist
‘If you expect more, you’ll get more,’ says transpersonal psychotherapist Alejandra Sarmiento. ‘Know what you want, believe you can get it and your optimism is sure to shine through during negotiations.’
Walk on by
‘Always enter a negotiation knowing you can walk away willingly,’ says business consultant Matthew Rushworth. ‘That way, you won’t have to accept demands in desperation. Recognising you have options could help negotiations fall in your favour.’
Breathe away brain fog
‘Despite all that prep in front of the mirror and the kick-ass pep talk from your best friend, it’s natural for brain fog to set in and take the edge off your confidence when in the moment,’ says clinical hypnotherapist Sophie Fletcher. ‘So, just before you enter said situation, practise some 7-11 breathing. This activates your soothing system, which helps you stay calm and keep a clear head. Breathe in to the count of seven and out to the count of 11. You can use a box breath for the same effect – breathe in to the count of four, pause for four, breathe out for four and pause for four – this is subtle enough to use during the negotiations themselves.’
Words: Larissa Chapman
Photograph: Getty Images