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How to Negotiate without Losing Friends, Fans or Job Offers


How often have you approached a negotiation feeling completely confident and powerful? Is it even possible to approach a negotiation this way?

Negotiating is tough, usually because we’re overwhelmed by worries, wondering what to say and how to say it. Add to that fears about how the other person will perceive us, and we’re likely to not make the ask at all.

The bulk of my career has involved negotiating one-off rates for clients, closing multi-million dollar contracts, and pushing for a higher salary for myself. When I started negotiating, I’d approach each conversation with dread. It felt uncomfortable, so why do it?

Luckily, in most cases, I didn’t have a choice.

Eventually I started to love the engagement in negotiation. It became a fun game of back and forth that didn’t have to feel awkward or disempowering. After all, the definition of negotiate is “find a way over or through.”

It’s a challenge to understand the other person and her needs and then reconcile those needs with your own.

There are many different ways to approach a negotiation, from playing hard ball to being nice but assertive. Before we master the big strategies, however, we need to check in with ourselves so we understand our limitations, value, and approach.

Below are ways to manage the emotions that come with negotiating. If you have a negotiation coming up, and maintaining a successful long-term relationship with the other person matters to you, keep reading.

Become Confident in Your Ask

“I don’t know what to charge,”


“I’d really like to ask for $100/hour, but they probably won’t pay that.”

I hear this all the time from both business owners or professionals in the traditional work space.

First, if you don’t know what prices to charge, start with your boundaries. What’s the lowest number you’ll accept, and what’s the ideal number you want to make? Be honest with yourself.

After you have these numbers, consider your costs, the market value and your markup, but you can work around those issues once you establish your target and your bottom line.

Once you have your ask, the next step is to develop confidence in the value you’re offering. How do you do that?

Start by listing all of the benefits your customer is receiving. Then, assign a value to each of those benefits. The value can be numerical but it can also be softer and less tangible.

For example, you may be offering writing services. The client is receiving your time, your content, and whatever research is involved for the content. You can assign a dollar value to each of these. However, other benefits can include association with your personal brand, or access to your social media following. These are also critical benefits that can provide your customer with long-term success.

Now, look at your pricing. Does it match with your value?

Create a strong rationale behind your ask. Let this drive your confidence. – Tweet It! 

Show gratitude

“He’s going to think I’m not grateful for the job offer so he’ll probably retract it.”

That’s the worst case scenario, and if that happens, do you really want to work at this place?

This may seem obvious, but start your negotiation with gratitude.

Express your appreciation with, “Thank you so much for offering me this opportunity. I’m extremely grateful for the chance to join your team.”

Starting with a thank you takes the focus away from you, and what you’re about to ask. You make the other person feel appreciated. This can ease the tension, and the other person is less likely to get defensive.

After you express gratitude, you can make your ask. It is perfectly okay to be appreciative, and also address your worth.

Get creative

Creativity is one of my favorite subjects. It’s a key driver in our work, and I believe what the true definition of work should be. Let’s bring more creativity to our negotiations.

If you’re met with a firm “no” on your ask, what can you do to overcome this? There is a solution to (almost) everything.

Start with asking questions to understand the other person. Then offer different options.

If your new boss can’t give you the $90K salary you desire, can you suggest other ways to arrive at that $90K? Can you present a lower base salary with a bonus option? Think about what else is priority for you. Perhaps flex time is important. Bake that into one of your options.

For example, your three options can look like this:

Option 1: $90K base salary

Option 2: $80K base salary + $10K bonus

Option 3: $80K base salary + work from home two days a week + $5K bonus

The amount you set for all of your variables should of course be based on the original feedback you get from your boss or client. Understand their limitations and issues to set your options. 

Get informed, get creative, and be solution-oriented rather than focusing on the fact that he said “no” first.

Conclusion: Prepare your ask

“How do I even start the conversation?”

Even if you have all the above points in check you may still feel stumped at how to approach the ask.

Here’s a quick formula to get you started.

  • Start with thank you. Express gratitude for the opportunity.
  • Make your ask. What are you looking for specifically?
  • Explain why. If there are six to seven reasons why you’re making your ask, start with the first one or two most important reasons. Save your other points for later as you go back and forth in the conversation.
  • Prepare to defend your ask. Write out all the reasons your boss or client may push back on you before the meeting. Then, think about how you’ll address all of his concerns.
  • Ask for more time. You never have to make a decision on the spot. If you’re not ready to close the deal, take the time to think things through.

Now, I want to hear from you. What’s got you most stressed about your negotiation? When do you feel confident, and when do you feel more fearful? Leave your comment below.

Belma McCaffrey

Author Belma McCaffrey

More posts by Belma McCaffrey

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