Skip to Main Content

The Ten Commandments of Negotiation for Women

Victoria-Pynchonsmby Victoria Pynchon

Thou Shalt Recognize the Opportunity to Negotiate Something for Thine Own.  

Whenever you have a decision to make with another person – going golfing or the movies, setting a fee, or buying a piece of bruised fruit at a farmers’ market – that’s an opportunity to ask for something more or different. That’s an opportunity to negotiate.

Thou Shalt Know Thine Own True Market Value.

If you’re like most women, you underestimate your market value by a third. Do your research (at or Characterize your job using male job descriptors because men make more money. You’re a consultant (male) not a life-coach (female).

Thou Shalt Ask for Thine Own Market Value without Apology.

When you know your true market value, you needn’t fear driving your bargaining partner away. Negotiation is a conversation leading to agreement.

If your bargaining partner finds your price too pricey or your resources too meager, help her find a way for both of you to get what you want – or at least what you both need.  That’s mutual benefit problem solving negotiation and most women naturally skilled at it.

Thou Shalt Never Undercut Thyself Before Thy Bargaining Partner Can Respond.

Don’t say, I charge $500 but I’ll take $250. If your market value is $500, say it loud and say it proud. There’s a better than 50% chance your bargaining partner will simply say ok. If not, let him ask for a better deal.

Thou Shalt Play Tit for Tat.

Decades of research have proven that the most effective strategy for getting what you want is to open cooperatively (Let’s find a way for both of us to get what we want); retaliate proportionally if your bargaining partner betrays you (I’m disappointed with your response); and, return quickly to cooperation when your bargaining partner does (I’m glad you’ve decided to help both of us work this out).

If you cooperate with someone who is not cooperating with you, you will enter into a cycle of victimization. If you fail to forgive and return to cooperation, you will enter into a cycle of escalated conflict.

Thou Shalt Negotiate with Thy Friends.

Women can make new friends of strangers by chatting in line at Starbucks. That’s a good thing. Women are the species’ social lubricants. If you believe negotiation will harm your relationships, you’ll avoid negotiating because most women value relationship over money.

If you’re using mutual benefit negotiation strategies (let’s find a way for both of us to get what we want or need) bargaining with your friends will strengthen your relationship because you’ll be doing them a good turn, not chiseling them out of their last nickel.

Thou Shalt Open the Conversation by Offering to Benefit Your Negotiation Partner

When we ask powerfully for our own interests to be served, men and women alike will initially retaliate because self-serving crosses gender role boundaries.

Open the conversation with the benefit you’re able to bestow on your bargaining parter before you ask for reciprocity. Say, my proposal will benefit not only myself but also our company, our community, our work group, or my family, etc. Frame your “ask” as giving more than you are receiving and you will not upset your negotiation partner’s expectation that you’ll be generous rather than self-seeking.

Thou Shalt Refer to Thy Sisters.

When women reach wage and income parity with men, we can go back to ignoring gender. Until that time, refer business to your sisters. A rising tide raises all ships.

Thou Shalt Fearlessly Praise Thine Own Work because if you don’t who will?

Thou Shalt Take a Day of Rest because you’re already working 10% faster and 22% longer than your male colleagues are and you deserve it.

2012 Pennsylvania Conference for Women speaker Victoria Pynchon, J.D., LL.M, co-founder of She Negotiates Consulting and Training and the She Negotiates blog at ForbesWoman