Get what you want: The path of Grace and Grit in negotiation

Go get yours. Because, really, what do you have to lose?

So much about money has to do with our internal world; the patterns that precede our behaviors. This is why the whole way women deal with money is so unique. We texture it with the nuances of our belief systems, feelings and values. It is actually a wonderful, contextual way to approach the world of finance. And I think our way of seeing money as a means and not an end is an accurate perspective. But then again, I’m a chick!

In the world of negotiation, all of these emotions, beliefs and ideas take root. Something that seems so clean and clear is, actually, not. Instead of speaking out, I have watched as women walk away from millions of dollars, leave themselves penniless and stay in abusive situations to prevent an argument. This breaks my heart.

Something that seems so clean and clear is, actually, not.

How can we find a way to overcome the internal barriers that prevent us from asking for what we want and what we are worth? Is it really an issue about techniques or is it emotional preparedness?

It’s probably a mixture of both.

1) Prepare to walk

You heard me talk about having a Plan B; creating a set of options that are so wonderful that the loss we anticipate if our negotiation fails doesn’t look so bad. I don’t know if this would be considered a powerful way to get over fear but it works for me. I always come to grips with the worst case scenario and create an alternate reality that pleases me.

Don’t settle for just any Plan B. I have always thought of myself as an excellent negotiator. I think it’s primarily because when the person across from me looks in my eyes they can see my willingness to simply walk — from them, the situation and this conversation. My father taught me that. He used it in all of his dealings. He was always prepared to walk. We watched him walk from jobsites, vendors, his staff…(and our mother!)… on numerous occasions.

Don’t settle for just any Plan B.

I learned that losing the deal was not fatal. And he would always get back into the truck or the house and explain how the new idea he had would work around it and how it was much better. Always keep in mind that, with this strategy, “B” means better.

2) Practice losing

In a way, this strategy is a prelude to the practice of losing. We women act like failure is terminal. Winners lose all the time. They get used to it. Any Olympic athlete or Fortune 500 CEO has lost many games, cases, deals and jobs. You can’t succeed without failing. So coming to grips with that is an essential insight. I have sat by and watched my own young adult children practice failing. They are quite skilled at it. And I am proud. They have had some pretty rough nosedives. These have involved police officers, hospital emergency personnel and school board officials. I admire their courage. I have deliberately taken a back seat whenever I could and left them to get themselves out of their own mess. This is an act of great respect and takes incredible personal fortitude. It allows them to experience failure as a non-fatal experience and to develop the self-esteem that comes with surviving and figuring out solutions.

You can’t succeed without failing: Coming to grips with this is an essential insight.

Screwing things up is not so bad. It is the stories we tell ourselves about failing that are catastrophic. The failures themselves are rarely lethal. Failure itself is an integral element of expansion and will pave the way for greater wins in the future.

3) Act as if

Another principle I use at the negotiation table is to “act as if”. I know that I am terrified but I can at least pretend not to be. In grad school, we learned about proprioceptive feedback. That is when you feel your heart beat rising and you think, “Oh my, I am getting so nervous!”. Or we feel our skin getting clammy and we start to hyperventilate because we have identified that our body is alarmed.

Trying to go around these responses is tricky. But we are essentially reinforcing our stress response unconsciously by picking up and identifying our own tension. So I have learned to fake it. When I am anxious in front of an audience for instance, I don’t tell them I am nervous. I stand like I am sure. I breathe slowly and carefully. I plaster a smile on my face. I walk to the podium with deliberation. I draw down my shoulders. I may want to projectile vomit into the audience but no one is ever going to know it.

The good part of that strategy is that it feeds a message to my brain that I am actually in control thereby staving off the ancillary stress responses. I act as if I am calm and I get calmer! I act as if I can walk from this marriage or job or deal and my eyes and body posture become more powerful.

Acting “as if” feeds a message to my brain that I am actually in control.

Just make sure the story you tell yourself is true. It is okay to acknowledge to yourself that you are terrified. But then leave it at that. And on you go with a performance that will get you the money, love, sex and respect you desire.

4) Find that bigger Why

Another way I overcome my fear of negotiation is to find a bigger why. I look for it. I define it. Then I convince myself of it. Sometimes it is very simple. You will all agree that it is easier to negotiate on behalf of someone else. I have seen the most timid people step out and protect their children, their friends, or their staff. Their bigger Why is to look after someone else. And the conviction that you hold because you are advocating for someone else is recognized by your adversary.

It also gets around some of the deep prejudices that women face when negotiating for themselves. Apparently we look greedy, bossy and arrogant when the very same actions or statements by a man come across as assertive, strong, and brave. It is a drag, but for right now, it is what it is.

So even if it is really you who wants the money for a new Mercedes, acting as if it is for the betterment of someone else can help both parties get over these negative stereotypes. If that Mercedes will keep your children safer and warmer in the winter, then put it forward! If that raise buys you more shoes and freedom that is fine, but frame it so it looks like it benefits someone else. It is important that I model financial responsibility for my family and this raise will allow me to fully support my children without the aid of social assistance. Whatever it is. You get the idea? Find that bigger Why. If it’s 100% legit, great. But regardless, if you can find one in the actual negotiation process, things will move more smoothly.

Need a bigger Why? The most powerful one could be for the person you are negotiating with.

I have often found the bigger Why for the person I am negotiating with. That is the most powerful. When negotiating for a bigger office in my US broker days, I simply said that I wanted to do the best job possible so my boss would look good. And that could only be achieved if I had the resource of an office that clients would find suitable. I framed that whole negotiation around making him be successful by giving me an office! And I got the office. I was also prepared to walk from that job if I didn’t. He took me under his wing at that point. I had not just secured the space I wanted, but a powerful ally as well.

5) Leave your niceness at home

I remember the former Prime Minister of Canada, Kim Campbell, saying that, “Nice girls don’t get far”. She didn’t mean that women of high moral integrity, grace and intelligence didn’t get far. She didn’t mean that being good was wrong either. She meant that this idea that being sweet and accommodating ultimately might get us laid or into a relationship but it won’t get us the presidency or a seat at the boardroom table. Nice is overrated. I am making a distinction here between “nice,” as in how accommodating I appear to others, and “nice” as in the kindness, compassion and ethics that make a person good.

My friends are considered nice women. I consider them good women. They may be lovely but the successful ones have fire in their belly. They are not always sweet nor are they always nice to me. They will go through a burning building to rescue me but they will also tell me when I am off track, in denial and out of my mind! I need good women. The world needs good women. Nice is just not that effective.

Nice, as in how accommodating I appear to others, is overrated.

There is a kind of mental toughness that we can and need to develop for our public personas that will bring us satisfaction at the negotiation table and improve our chances of success. There is a brand of grace that works wonders in keeping conflict to a minimum, while still managing to get the job done. And I also believe in staying feminine. But by and large I leave my niceness at home when I am on Bay Street or Wall Street. Getting eaten alive is not on my agenda. Getting what I want and am worth, is.

So — tell me — what do you want?

Join us now to access more life-changing articles, advice and videos!

Tracy Theemes Quote

"Our financial situation is not about the numbers, but the contexts and stories we live in and with."

Tracy Theemes