We tend to think of negotiation skills when it comes to situations such as agreeing to a salary for a new job, finalizing a contract with a new client or haggling price with a car dealer. These are all important situations that require skill, but the reality is that we are negotiating all the time in both our personal and professional lives. Negotiation is a daily practice.
This can be problematic for anyone who hates to negotiate or feels uncomfortable in even semi-confrontational situations. While I know plenty of men who don’t like to negotiate, it’s far more common for women to feel this way. According to Lois Frankel and Carol Frohlinger, authors of the new book "Nice Girls Just Don’t Get It: 99 Ways to Win the Respect You Deserve, the Success You’ve Earned, and the Life You Want", the reason for this is that many women fall into the societal trap of believing that being “nice” is more important than getting the things we want. According to the authors of another book, "Women Don’t Ask", 2.5 times more women than men said they feel “a great deal of apprehension” about negotiating.
What can women do to be better at negotiating? In "Nice Girls Just Don’t Get It", Frankel and Frohlinger offer 99 strategies for being a “winning woman” in all aspects of life. (Full disclosure: I contribute to the blog ThinPinkLine.com with Frankel and Frohlinger and consider them both friends and mentors. And — although I’ll never admit which one — an anecdote in the book is based on me!)
What I love about this book is the way the authors give incredibly specific tactics and strategies for achieving small and large goals in every aspect of life, ranging from convincing a waiter to take back a dish to telling a friend you’re not available for free babysitting to getting selected for desirable work projects.
Here are three of my favorite tips, which are valuable for both “nice girls” and “nice boys,” particularly those just starting out in the workforce:
Realize you have more options than you think. If you’re feeling stuck in a situation minor or major (e.g., you’re not sure how to word a tough email, how to handle a difficult boss or what job to pursue next), Frankel and Frohlinger point out that many people don’t see the many choices that lie before us. Since “we don’t know what we don’t know,” they recommend enlisting a friend or mentor to help you identify alternatives that you didn’t think of on your own.
Pick the right method, time and place for difficult conversations. One of the characteristics I’ve noticed in a lot of Millennials is the lack of experience having tough conversations face-to-face. There are just so many ways to avoid confrontation these days (like breaking up via text!). However, those who get ahead and get what they want are the people who don’t shy away from difficult conversations. I firmly agree with Frankel and Frohlinger, who state that “face-to-face can be scary, but it’s almost always best, because you’ll be able to observe [the other person’s] body language.” How can you become more comfortable with this? The authors advise the simple act of practicing with a trusted friend.
Lead from where you are. Entry-level recruiters and grad school admissions officers frequently tell me that leadership is one of the most important qualities a candidate can possess. This can cause a lot of anxiety, especially for shy people, but, as Frankel and Frohlinger assert, “contrary to popular belief, there aren’t ‘born’ leaders.” Their advice is to learn leadership skills by becoming a student of leadership, such as learning how others have led successfully by observing their behavior and reading great books on the topic. Small leadership acts can lead up to large leadership responsibilities in a shorter time frame than you might think.