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When it comes to negotiation, Americans aren't at the top of their game.
Whether it be asking for a raise or closing a business deal, more than 40 percent of U.S. employees don't feel confident in their negotiation skills, while a quarter admit to never having negotiated at all in the workplace, according to a survey by the online professional network LinkedIn.
The study revealed men feel more confident about negotiating than women, with 37 percent of males feeling self-assured in their abilities, compared with just 26 percent of females.
Of the eight countries examined, workers in the U.S. are the most anxious negotiators. Germans, on the other hand, have the most positive outlook; they were overall most excited about negotiating and ranked second-highest ranking when it came to feeling confident in their negotiation ability.
"While it's true that there’s a flat-out fear of negotiating among a percentage of professionals, all of us can benefit from getting smarter about making requests at work," said Selena Rezvani, author of Pushback: How Smart Women Ask -- And Stand Up -- For What They Want (Jossey-Bass, 2012). "Whether that means consulting a salary calculator, conferring with a second-degree connection on LinkedIn to learn your counterpart’s style, or using a negotiating app on your phone for practice, careful preparation is a worthy investment of your time."
Rezvani offers several tips for those looking to take their negotiating skills to the next level:
- Confer with your network-- A network is the most underused tool in a negotiation. LinkedIn connections can offer many kinds of help, from giving insight into a counterpart’s motivations and style to acting as sounding boards.
- Open big-- People too often set low expectations for themselves when entering a negotiation. Always start with an ambitious outcome that would delight and thrill you, not just simply satisfy you.
- Close the gap-- Don’t overestimate the other party’s power. Seeing the other person as an equal or a peer can make all the difference in getting the outcomes you want.
- Hear 'no' as 'not yet'-- Don’t assume that when someone says no, the matter is closed for discussion. Timing is everything. Try asking a second time under different circumstances.
- Negotiate even if there’s no precedent-- It’s okay to ask for an exception to the rule. Who cares that no one else has ever asked for a phase-back return from maternity leave? Be the first one to ask for it, and develop a plan to best execute your leave and return.
- Do pre-work-- Negotiators can gain an advantage by taking the initiative to write a draft plan of their proposal. By illuminating the key details, you make it easier for them to say "yes."
- Don’t give in-- While in a negotiation, try drawing out the conversation rather than ending it short or surrendering. Experiment with being silent for a few seconds to level the power, or ask questions that open up dialogue and deepen the conversation.
The study was based on surveys of more than 2,000 professionals in eight countries worldwide, including the United States, Brazil, India, Germany and South Korea.
Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based freelance writer who has worked in public relations and spent 10 years working as a newspaper reporter and now works as a freelancer business and technology reporter. You can reach him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @cbrooks76.