As a family law attorney, I negotiate for a living. I have a few tips to impart to other women who might feel intimidated by the prospect of walking into a negotiating meeting. The first one is: it is far more important to be “smart” than “nice”. It is never a good idea to agree to something just to get the negotiation over with, or to be perceived as fair and nice by the other side. In fact, sometimes when you are too nice, it can be perceived as a weakness, and the other side may try to take advantage. Instead, be “smart”, i.e. fully prepared. This means doing your research before the meeting to ensure that you have all the information you need to present reasonable demands, and to know the strength of your requests. When possible, bring evidence that will support your position, including photographs, facts and figures, and emails. Also be alert for evidence that can be detrimental to your argument. For women especially, it is also critical that your emotions do not get in the way and cloud your judgment at a negotiation meeting. Often when we feel strongly about the issues, or the other party, we get overwhelmed and let our emotions get the best of us. When this happens, rash and regrettable decisions can be made.
Before the meeting, it is a good idea to know your bottom line on each issue. What is the most you are willing to give up in order to reach that middle ground? Be focused and prioritize your goals. Make sure you do not overreach. Ask yourself, “What is fair?” Also, know that the worse case scenario is possible. Do not be overconfident.
When negotiating, know your leverage, but do not abuse it. Winning is not everything. Sometimes, it is important to preserve the relationship with the other side, because there might be other negotiations in the future. It is important to be focused and stay focused. Speak calmly and listen when the other side is talking. Do not rush an outcome just to reach a decision. Wait for the right outcome. It may take some time, but the result will most likely be better. One last thing to remember—be a big girl, you can do this! With practice and confidence, you can be a strong negotiator.