The Art of Negotiation: 5 Tips from Top Businesswomen

Last Updated Jan 21, 2011 1:27 PM EST

Recently Penelope Trunk stirred up debate on BNET by offering three terrible pieces of career advice women give each other. Among them: learn to be a good leader from business books. She argues that most business books are written by men who just don't understand the unique challenges facing women.

Selena Rezvani, author of The Next Generation of Women Leaders: What You Need to Lead but Won't Learn in Business School, would most likely agree with Trunk about the limitations of traditional male-driven business education. But instead of complaining about terrible female-to-female tips, she has compiled a book of successful women's best advice to up-and-coming female strivers.
Writing on blog The Glass Hammer, Rezvani goes into detail, offering a distillation of top businesswomen's advice on one area in which women sometimes struggle -- negotiating. Here are her five tips to help young women overcome their jitters and become master negotiators.

  • Overprepare: Before entering any kind of negotiation, take the time to organize yourself from an informational standpoint. Write out why you are negotiating for whatever it is and the reasons for it. When you're clear on your rationale, assemble any research that supports your argument.... If you want to ask for an assistant, for example, examine the standard criteria for hiring an assistant within your company. How many people does an assistant typically support? What kind of revenue does a department have to produce in order to justify having an assistant? Most of all, be ready to convey how an assistant could add new value for your organization.
  • Keep the Ship Steady: Prepare not only your factsâ€"but also your demeanor. Walking into a negotiation without preparing can be disastrous... Show that you're optimistic that a solution can be reached that can satisfy all parties. You can also boost yourself up emotionally by dwelling on your strengths and abilities; 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.
  • Ask Questions Strategically: In a negotiation, open-ended questions can be extremely powerful. These questions open up dialogue and can buy you more time if you need to gather your thoughts. Examples include: Can you explain how you arrived at that solution? What is keeping us from coming to an agreement? How can we move forward?
  • 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 to break the silence put you in a more favorable position.
  • Look for Mutual Gains: Look for a way for both parties to win. One of the women executives I interviewed for my book, Roxanne Spillett, President and CEO of Boys and Girls Clubs of America, 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."
Read More on BNET: (Businesswoman image from gcoldironjr2003, CC 2.0)
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    Jessica lives in London where she works as a freelance writer with interests in green business and tech, management, and marketing.