Skip to Main Content

It Pays to Negotiate: 5 Tactics That Work

selena_rezvani_picContributed by Selena Rezvani, author of “The Next Generation of Women Leaders: What You Need to Lead but Won’t Learn in Business School”

If you think about it, we’re engaging in negotiations at work all the time. Whether we’re asking for the big promotion, the funding to attend a training or conference, or for a vendor to come down on their prices, we’re in more bargaining situations than we realize. The following strategies can help you sharpen your current negotiation skills and continue developing:

Keep the Ship Steady: Walking into a negotiation without preparing can be disastrous, as can spontaneous or emotion-driven negotiations. Concentrate on several of your past successes to increase your confidence and optimism. Regulate your emotions by role-playing the negotiation with someone you trust beforehand, so that you can remain unflappable during the real thing. Above all else, separate for yourself the person you will be speaking with and the problem you are trying to solve—they are not the same.

Ask Questions Strategically: In a negotiation, open-ended questions can be extremely powerful. They buy you more time if you need to gather your thoughts and can help guide and move the conversation along.


Can you explain how you arrived at that solution?

Are you willing to negotiate that point?

How could I help you feel more comfortable with this request?

What is most important to you? Why?

How can we make this work for both of us?

Is that the best you can do?

Use Silence for a Change: When you use silence strategically, you’re not over-promising or under-selling in ways you will later regret. You’ll not only be able to contemplate your next move, but silence often makes your counterpart share information, restate their position, or try to guess what your position is. Each of these attempts put you in a more favorable position. The “silence strategy” is especially important for women since we may be tempted to accommodate our counterpart or fill a conversation void.

Look for Mutual Gains: One of the women executives I interviewed for my book advised, “…Look for a ‘win-win’ in relationships and negotiations. Every time you think there’s a ‘win-loss’ situation, look for ways to make it mutually beneficial….” Coming up with creative solutions and concessions can certainly show your willingness to get to common ground in a negotiation. However if you must concede something, always try to negotiate something else back.

Selena Rezvani will speak at the 2010 PA Governor’s Conference for Women on a panel titled “Negotiating Your Way to the Top.”