Despite advances made by women over the last few decades, many women still don’t use negotiation enough, according to authors Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever in their second book, Ask For It: How To Get Women to Use the Power of Negotiation to Get What They Really Want (Random House). The book provides actionable tips and sample scenarios, as well as a glossary of bargaining language suitable for a variety of situations. The authors offer a four-phase program of strategies, exercises and empowerment lessons to help determine what you want, what you’re worth and how to increase your bargaining power.
Although I’m not usually big on self-help books, I found this one to be particularly helpful and as relevant today as it was when originally published in 2008. In fact, I have benefited from taking action on the authors’ guidance, which made me feel ready, confident and more prepared at the negotiation table.
In the spirit of paying it forward, I’ve summarized below the authors’ four-phase program to help determine what you want, what you’re worth and how to increase your bargaining power — it’s worth the investment!
Phase I: Everything is Negotiable
Look back and identify changes you'd like to make in your live. Are you stuck? What benefits, promotions, pay raises, career transitions do you deserve? This phase is chock full of suggestions on how to aim higher and push through barriers and fear of rejection. It challenges women in particular it to endeavor for more and get comfortable in striving for what they want.
Phase II: Lay the Groundwork
Preparing in advance for a negotiation is like setting the dinner table with all of the utensils and plates needed for the big meal. It builds confidence and information readiness needed for a persuasive argument. The authors thoroughly explain the basics of negotiation strategy, how to identify the information needed and the best ways to assess and build your bargaining position. This kind of analysis is helpful in myriad ways: It takes the emotion out (a stumbling block for many) and provides a structure so that you can power up an “ask” with facts.
Phase III: Get Ready
Communication style during negotiation is critical and so is pacing. Here the focus is on negotiation fundamentals: How to set the right target, decide what to ask for, make the first offer (or avoid doing so if possible) and identify the best time to “ask.” Negotiation is not always adversarial. In fact, the authors advocate changing the dynamic and working cooperatively to identify mutually-beneficial solutions. This approach can be incredibly helpful in building long-term relationships and collaboration. There’s also discussion about the pros and cons of bluffing, when and how to make concessions, and importantly, how to keep things positive and on track. The authors provide terrific exercises to practice these new skills in a variety of situations. I’ve been personalizing them and applying the techniques to my recent negotiations so I can improve the next time around.
Phase IV: Put It All Together
The most effective way of alleviating the anxiety that many women feel about negotiation is to role play in advance to build confidence and skill. In the final phase, the authors show readers how to nail down a negotiation strategy in steps. There are tools and techniques to avoid early concession, how to manage disappointment and other unexpected emotional reactions that undermine confidence. There are broader applications beyond the bargaining table.
Perhaps the best thing about Ask For It is that it helps women see negotiation as an opportunity to benefit everyone involved rather than as an aggressive, adversarial confrontation. In this way, they can set higher goals that lead to more positive outcomes.