How To Negotiate Even If You Really, Really Hate It

A lot of people hate it, but negotiation is critical to getting what you want. Here are four tips to make it (slightly) less painful.

How To Negotiate Even If You Really, Really Hate It
[Image: Flickr user Alon]

If the thought of negotiating makes you weak in the knees (not in a good way), take note: It doesn’t need to hurt. In fact, there are several ways to make negotiation palatable and, dare we say, a more rewarding experience.


Whitney Johnson, cofounder of Rose Park Advisors, a Boston investment firm, and author of Dare, Dream, Do: Remarkable Things Happen When You Dare To Dream, recently explored this topic for Harvard Business Review. Here are four suggestions to make your next negotiation experience more pleasant:

1. Use verbal cues.

You’re at your daughter’s softball game, and you strike up a conversation with another parent whose business is looking for a new service provider. Your company meets the requirements. According to Hannah Riley Bowles, a negotiation professor at Harvard University, it’s important to signal you’re talking business and not acting “out of the goodness of your heart.” Bowles suggests saying something like, “‘This is the kind of advice that I give to my clients, [or] call me if you’d like to explore working together.”

2. Fake it ‘til you make it.

If negotiating makes you nauseated, Johnson suggests adopting a “power pose.” Harvard business professor Amy J.C. Cuddy wrote in a 2013 article for Harvard Business Review that adopting a strong stance (hands on hips, feet spread, a la Wonder Woman) a few minutes before entering a stressful situation increases testosterone levels by 20% in both men and women.

3. Provide regular updates, separate from negotiation process.

If you’re looking to negotiate a raise, don’t save up all your “wins” to present at one time, Johnson says. Though it can be difficult for reluctant negotiators to toot their own horn, Johnson suggests sharing your accomplishments on a monthly basis with your boss or client to show your worth. “Saving up all those achievements for one big reveal comes across as neediness, not negotiation,” Johnson says.

4. Take emotion out of it.

If you feel passionately about something, it can be hard to not let your emotions take over, Johnson notes. Liz O’Donnell, founder of the blog Hello Ladies, wrote in her book Mogul, Mom and Maid, about a coach who, in preparing for a tough conversation with her boss, instructed her to point at a table in the conference room and say, “This is a table,” speaking about it in a factual, noncontroversial way. She repeated the exercise and framed the conversation with her boss in a similarly neutral, detached way.

Hat tip: Harvard Business Review, the Globe and Mail

About the author

Lindsay LaVine is a Chicago-based business and lifestyle freelance writer who's worked for NBC and CNN. Her work has appeared online in,,, NBC News, MSNBC, Yahoo, Business Insider, and Fox Business.