If you’re burned out and overwhelmed by the pandemic, asking for more may feel like adding something onto an already full plate. You could be focused on just getting by, but you’re at risk of burnout if you don’t feel valued.
“Things have shifted over the course of the pandemic,” says Alexandra Carter, author of Ask for More: 10 Questions to Negotiate Anything. “Early on, conditions were so turbulent. Life was difficult for people at home, and many people felt too tapped out to ask for more. They were trying to get by and may even have been getting that message from their company that now is not the time to ask for more.”
In some cases, those who had a job felt fortunate, but the “Great Resignation” can be considered the result of pent-up frustration and being put on pause.
“I call this a great reexamining,” says Carter. “People are looking at their lives and considering not just how much they want to be paid; they’re also deciding what they want their title to be and what their life should look like. Instead of getting through the day, they’re looking at the long term.”
Now is the time to ask for more, says Carter. “If you’ve been waiting to ask for a raise, ask now,” she says. “If you’ve been waiting to go for the promotion, go now. If you’ve been thinking about starting your own business, try now. And if you are not fully valued, then it’s a terrific time to look at what’s out there and think about the type of life that’s rich, fulfilling, and sustainable. Companies are having a hard time retaining talent. Your worth on the market has never been greater.”
Prepare to ask for more
Get better at asking for more by realizing where negotiation starts. “It doesn’t start from the moment you sit down with your boss; it starts at home with you,” says Carter. “It starts with being able to clarify your goals, your concerns, and your needs.”
Carter, who is a professor at Columbia Law School specializing in mediation and negotiation, says when she walks into a room, she can identify the expert negotiators. “They are not the people with the most bluster or aggression; they’re the people with the most knowledge,” she says. “They know themselves. They know the situation, and they have the ability to listen and get to know the other person really well so that they’re crafting the best possible deals.”
Choose “what” over “why”
Once you know what you want, prepare to ask powerful questions. “We go through life asking questions every day,” says Carter. “It’s just that most of the questions we ask aren’t great. They don’t get us a lot of information. They may make people defensive, and they keep us stuck.”
The key is going from closed to open questions. Classic closed questions can be answered with a “yes” or “no,” and the easiest answer is “no.” Instead of asking for a promotion, for example, Carter suggests asking, “What’s the promotion process going to look like this year?” Or, “What do you need from me to make the case for my promotion?” Then listen to the answer.
“When you ask someone that question, very often you’re going to get powerful information that’s going to tell you what matters most to them, so that you’re going to be able to figure out a way that meets their needs, while also meeting yours,” says Carter.
If you’re at a barrier to a deal, Carter suggests asking, “What are your concerns?”
“You can find a way to meet those concerns, while also getting what you need,” says Carter. “This question is magic because it overcomes the no in a way that makes the other person happy.”
“What” questions are powerful, but Carter’s favorite two words for negotiation are “tell me.” “Tell me what you need most from my position. Tell me how I can help the company reach its goals this year. Tell me how we can work together to make the case for my promotion,” she says. “Starting every single conversation—whether it’s with your boss, a client, or your tween daughter—with ‘tell me’ is the broadest possible question that you can ask that gets you the most information. It generates the most trust, and it makes the best deals.”
Then land the plane
The final critical skill you need to master in successful negotiation is what Carter calls “landing the plane.” “You asked your question and made your request,” she says. “Now, stop talking and land the plane.”
Silence can be nerve-wracking, putting you at risk of eating it up with words you may regret. “Recent research in the Journal of Applied Psychology said that a lot of high value negotiation moves come after three and a half seconds of silence,” says Carter. “If you need to count in your head, do it. But silence is a superpower in negotiation. It gives the other person time to think, and it prevents you from bidding against yourself.”
Ask for more by clarifying what you need, having the courage to make your ask, asking your question, and landing the plane. You’ll be really glad you did, says Carter.