Negotiating terms with a level head may win results


August 18, 1991|By Niki Scott | Niki Scott,Universal Press Syndicate

You want a raise. Or you want the company to pay for your night school classes. Or you need flexible hours because you've just had a baby. Now all you have to do is convince your boss.

You'll negotiate more effectively with her -- or anyone --if you first take these steps:

*Take the time to reflect. Before asking for a meeting, spend time figuring out exactly what it is that you want.

*Research, research, research. Has what you're asking for recently been granted to others? How will the company benefit from giving you what you want? What objections can your boss raise? People who negotiate without facts at their fingertips usually lose.

*Rehearse. Stand in front of a mirror. Does your appearance reflect the image you want to project? Practice what you're going to say. Is your tone of voice cordial, matter-of-fact, firm but pleasant? Are you using too much, or too little, body language?

*Recognize the other person's viewpoint. Your boss has her own problems, worries, fears, responsibilities, opinions and priorities.

Your negotiations are bound to be more fruitful if you treat her as a worthwhile human being, not just an obstacle -- or the enemy.

*Relate your request in clear, concrete, concise, specific terms. Don't whine. Don't plead. Don't act or sound as if you're spoiling for a fight. When in doubt, say less rather than more -- especially during the first meeting.

*Relax while the other person talks. Don't fidget. Don't look away. Don't argue with her in your head. Just listen -- carefully! -- to what she says while taking a few deep, steadying breaths.

*Respond to what the other person says. Show her with non-verbal signs that you're not only listening, but hearing. Sit slightly forward, maintain eye contact and look interested -- not agitated.

*Repeat briefly the most important points she makes, both to make sure you understand her and let her know that you've been listening.

*Remind your boss of your accomplishments and value to the company. Again, there's a fine line here. If you sound like you're bragging, you'll turn her off.

But it can't hurt to say something like: "I believe I've made significant improvements in my performance," then present her with documentary evidence (letters, time sheets, sales reports, etc.) to support your claim.

*Know when to retreat. If you sense that the meeting is turning into a battle, back off. Only one person can win a clash of wills -- and it won't be you.

*Finally, be ready to return to the table, even if your negotiations seem to be at an end. Never consider the door to be closed completely. So long as you avoid rancor and don't resort to ultimatums, even old issues can be revived and re-examined later -- at a time more favorable to you.

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