LEARNING TO NEGOTIATE, and standing up for what you want or need will not just help you professionally, it will help you to do more of what you want at home, with friends and in all areas of your life.

However, at our recent negotiation workshop, many of the discussions were around confidence. People understood negotiation strategies and tactics but were still apprehensive about how they would actually find the nerve to try them out.

So how do you get yourself into the right frame of mind to negotiate? Consider the following:

You have the right to negotiate

You have the right to negotiate. That is a fact. But do you believe it? If you can always find reasons why other people deserve it more than you, or have more power than you, or who’s needs are more important than yours, then this might seem like a difficult concept, but each and every one of us is entitled to stand up for ourselves.

Think about the people in your life that you care about. Who should they always give in to? Who should they always accommodate, regardless of how unfair the request? Who’s needs should they always give into before taking their own needs into account?

I’m hoping you are struggling to answer these questions, because when we think about our friends and family, we usually think they have every right to stand up for themselves. Yet some of us put ourselves into a special category that somehow deserves less than we think those around us do.

So, step one is to believe that you have every right to ask for what you want. We’ve all heard the phrase, “If you don’t ask, you don’t get.” That’s not to say that if you do ask, the other party has to agree. This is where the other tools and techniques of negotiation come in, but you certainly have the right to ask, and you have the right to walk away if what they can do, isn’t good enough for you.

Be your own best friend

If you find it easier to see how your friends and family should be able to negotiate for themselves than you can for yourself, then imagine being your own best friend. What would you do differently? Would you accept having the price pushed down for your work or the working hours being extended for no extra fee? As your own best friend, at what point would you tell yourself to walk away?

I once met an actor who had struggled to negotiate for themselves, and who came up with the idea of negotiating as his own agent. He could then think about himself in the third person, and find the distance he needed to negotiate effectively, without making it too personal. It worked for him, and might be worth you giving it a try.

See it from the other side

As someone who has hired a lot of people in different roles, I can say with confidence that I have never objected when people want to negotiate some aspect of their contract or role. Usually there is some room for flexibility, sometimes there is not. If agreement is not possible at this point, this is definitely the right time to know there’s an issue.

The fact that they are willing to negotiate suggests that they are experienced and know what they are doing. I have never walked away from someone trying to negotiate something thinking, “How dare they!” Often there has been a benefit, for example, my understanding of the situation from the ensuing conversation has been expanded, and I am happy with what we have agreed. Or, I am thinking it’s a shame we couldn’t agree this time but I know more about what they do now and will consider them in the future if circumstances change.”

It’s OK to agree to disagree

Not getting what you want isn’t failure, it’s an outcome. They wanted one thing, you wanted something different and when there’s not enough common ground for a compromise that suits you both, sometimes you have to walk away. The objective isn’t to get an agreement at all costs but to get an agreement that will last and works for you both. This is true in business, and it’s true in your personal relationships.

As in all areas that involve building confidence, the more you do it, the easier it gets. If necessary, fake it ‘til you make it. By which I mean, you don’t have to wait until you are confident, you just have to act as if you are. Then, over time, the gap between what you are pretending to be, and what you actually have become will get smaller and smaller till one day you will realise that you are truly confident.

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If you'd like to learn more about effective negotiation, try our ecourse Negotiation for Freelances - free to members and designed so you can learn at your convenience.

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