A Simple Chart That Will Help You Get The Most Out Of Every Negotiation

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There’s always more than one issue at stake in a negotiation. Even if your top priority is money, there’s at least also timing. Let’s say you’re negotiating for your salary in a new job. When is your start date? Next week? Next month? Creating a simple chart that lists all the issues will help you break down exactly what’s at stake and help you prioritize what matters to you most. Then, you can think the issues through again from your counterpart’s point of view.

A chart like this will help you plan out a multi-issue negotiation, like a job offer, a contract negotiation, or when buying or selling something like a home or a car. The ideal time to create your chart is when you have some advance time to plan and think through what’s at stake.

The three types of issues

An issue is something at stake, like a price, a feature, or a particular timeframe. For example, in a job negotiation, some issues at stake might be your salary, your start date, your responsibilities, the amount of vacation days you get, and your benefits.

There are three types of issues in a negotiation, and once you understand the framework for each issue and how much it matters to you, you can start to think about what packages and trades you can offer your counterpart, based on what he or she values.

The first type of issue is one where I get more, you get less. These are issues about money. For example, if you’re buying a car, you want to pay the lowest price possible, while the salesperson likely wants you to pay the highest price possible. In a job scenario, you want a higher salary, while your manager might prefer to save that budget for other priorities.

The next type of issue is about making the pie bigger. These are additional offers or criteria you can add into your conversation that are valuable to all parties. For example, if you’re moving out of your apartment and don’t want to take all your furniture to your new place, you could offer to sell it to the new tenant at a low price — they get discount furniture and you have less items to move, dispose of or donate. A career-related example could be about a professional development opportunity, like a course or a conference. You gain new skills that help your employer now and you get to benefit from in perpetuity.

The final type of issue is one where you both want the same thing. This sounds deceptively simple, like you could just check it off your list of items to negotiate and move on. But if you’re thoughtful, you can use these issues strategically to your advantage. Let’s say you’re negotiating for a new job. Your future employer wants you to start immediately, but assumes you’ll try to take some time off between jobs. As it turns out, you’re feeling refreshed from a recent vacation and are happy to start immediately. They don’t know what your preferences are unless you share them — so ask plenty of questions to get a sense of their priorities.

To create this chart, think through all the items at stake in your negotiation, then think about where each each item falls in the chart. Prioritize the issues from your point of view, and do your best to estimate where your counterpart’s priorities lay. Know that you won’t be able to perfectly fill this out from their side, but it should help guide the questions you ask and inform your negotiation strategy.

Once you’ve added in as much information as you can, ask yourself what trades can you offer your counterpart based on both of your priorities. In our job scenario, you’d be willing to start immediately — if your manager can prioritize sending you to a conference you’re particularly excited about. Or, perhaps you’re on your partner’s health insurance and don’t need insurance from your new company. That’s a significant savings for them — would they be willing to extend you a one-time signing bonus? Think creatively and be willing to put forth several options to see what sticks.

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.


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.