4 Concepts Even Experienced Negotiators Need To Know

I'm interested in how a negotiation mindset can help people achieve their career goals. I've quoted four books that explore different aspects of value and leadership: why it's worth overcoming fears about negotiating, going beyond the basics to get a good deal, making space to respect your identity during a conflict, and what it will take for female leaders to be less disliked.

1. “The merit system can work. But let’s be clear: there is no divine providence in the workplace. You get only what you ask for.”

- Jessica Bennett, Feminist Fight Club

No one is as invested in advocating for your career and paycheck as you are. That’s why I love how cut and dry Jess Bennett is on negotiation. You just have to do it. (The negotiation chapter in her book is called, ‘F You, Pay Me.’) Your salary is not just about your lifestyle today, but how well you can take care of yourself in well into the future. Although you may not spend much time thinking about it now, it’s important to know that the gender and race wage gaps are a triple whammy for women when they get to retirement age. Not only do women typically outlive their husbands by an average of 4.9 years (that is, if they have a husband), they made less while they were working and will earn less in government benefits in retirement, since they’re determined by wage history.

2. “[O]nce people are negotiating… getting to ‘yes’ often feels like success, even if accepting the deal were not in all parties’ best interest.”

- Margaret Neale and Thomas Lys, Getting (More of) What You Want: How the Secrets of Economics and Psychology Can Help You Negotiate Anything, in Business and in Life

‘Getting to yes’ is a negotiation concept made famous by the book of the same name. It’s a step-by-step method to lead both sides to reach an agreement. Neale and Lys take it further: they write that the goal of a negotiation isn’t just to make a deal. The goal is to get a good deal. This means going in with a clear understanding of your bottom line, your target, and your aspiration, or starting price. The terms of the deal should be better than your alternatives, and perhaps most critically, the negotiation should maintain, or even improve, the relationship between you and your counterpart.

3. “...the key dimensions of conflict resolution [are] rationality, emotions, and identity… Only by addressing all three can we hope to arrive at a satisfying resolution to an emotionally charged conflict.”

- Daniel Shapiro, Negotiating the Nonnegotiable: How to Resolve Your Most Emotionally Charged Conflicts

I love Dan Shapiro’s approach to conflict because he understands that problem solving goes beyond who has more leverage. He embraces a nuanced understanding of the depth of experience that each of us bring to any negotiation. It’s a challenge to the idea, “it’s not personal, it’s business.” I think of the scene in You’ve Got Mail where Joe Fox (Tom Hanks) tries to tell Kathleen Kelly (Meg Ryan) that putting her independent bookstore out of business wasn’t personal: “All that means is that it wasn’t personal to you,” she says.

4. “Real change will come when powerful women are less of an exception. It is easy to dislike senior women because there are so few. If women held 50 percent of the top jobs, it would just not be possible to dislike that many people.”

- Sheryl Sandberg, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead

As of late 2016, only 5.4% of the S&P 500 companies have a woman CEO, and even that’s 22% more than the prior year. It’s only slightly better below the top spot: senior managers are 25% female, and 19% of board seats are held by women. We’ve still got work to do.

This post originally appeared in Women@Forbes, where Alexandra Dickinson is a contributor. She writes about how to use a negotiation mindset to achieve your goals.

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Alexandra Dickinson

Alexandra Dickinson is the CEO and founder of Ask For It, a boutique consulting company working to close the gender wage gap by effecting change at both the institutional and individual level. We work with companies, schools, organizations and individuals through a combination of trainings, workshops and consulting. Our goal is for women and men to be paid based on their talents and skills, regardless of gender, and for our company to have been an important part of that change.