If you’re extra nice by nature, the thought of entering a negotiation can feel like a major undertaking. As someone who considers themselves to be extremely conflict averse, I was prone to asking my mom to handle difficult phone conversations into my twenties. Then, I finally realized that being nice doesn’t have to be a weakness when it comes to having important talks.
The definition of ‘negotiation’ is a discussion aimed at reaching an agreement. The key word is discussion, not argument. Viewing negotiations this way instead of as begging or arguing was one way I managed to stop being afraid of the whole concept. If the thought of negotiation still makes you uneasy, follow these tips and better navigate negotiations while being a little too nice:
If you're extremely sensitive or empathetic, as most nice people are, personal feelings can get involved in a negotiation before you know it. And even if it's not your feelings getting hurt, assuming the other person’s emotions can also damage your argument.
If you’re negotiating a salary increase for yourself and your boss starts lower than you expect, don’t assume that it’s necessarily reflective of your work. If you are the boss in the situation and are not able to accommodate a raise being asked of you, don’t assume your employee will be upset if you can’t meet them where they want. Business is business.
The actual negotiation should never be your first step. You should have the points you want to make in your meeting planned out ahead of time and have a clear goal in mind. Have reasons prepared for why you deserve to get what you want – you need to be able to support your claim. For every point you have, try to think of one rebuttal, and come up with a response to that too. Having your responses prepared will help keep you from getting flustered mid-discussion and will remind you not to back down out of fear of being pushy or mean.
In addition to having your own points written out, have a set of questions ready to ask. This is important because when you’re extra nice by nature, questioning someone can feel combative. Asking questions is necessary to help form the best possible understanding of the situation and will keep the conversation moving if you start to feel rattled.
If you walk into a negotiation seeming afraid or upset, you open yourself up for attack. Unless the person you're negotiating with happens to be nicer than you are, they can use your fear to boost their confidence and bulldoze right over you. Regardless of how you feel inside, it’s imperative that you project a cool, calm demeanor. Be aware of your facial expressions if you’re meeting in person, and make sure your tone remains even. Maintain steady eye-contact and avoid fidgeting or rocking back and forth. You don’t have to come off as aggressive, but you should focus on projecting a relaxed, assertive air.
One of the scariest things about heading into negotiations can be the ‘what-ifs’ floating around. It’s natural to immediately jump to the worst-case scenario, but try to conceive a realistic view of what life after a ‘no’ might look like. This will help you remain calmer throughout your negotiation – good or bad – and wlll help you take an unfavorable outcome in stride. If you don’t get the promotion you hoped for or contract terms adjusted exactly the way you like, imagine what your other options could be, and ask if there might be room for another adjustment later. Remember, an unfavorable outcome isn’t the end of the world – it just lends itself for another discussion.
Kayla Heisler is an essayist and Pushcart Prize-nominated poet. She is a contributing writer for Color My Bubble. Her work appears in New York's Best Emerging Poets anthology.