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Are Americans Bad Negotiators?

Business News Daily Editor
Business News Daily Editor

Almost half of the employees in the U.S. do not feel confident in their negotiation skills. Here's how to improve yours.









  • Negotiation is a critical factor in business success. You need a strategy in order to win any business deal.
  • Good negotiators control processes and often leave the table satisfied with results.
  • While negotiation can be a natural talent, it can also be learned.

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% 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 LinkedIn survey.

The study was based on surveys of more than 2,000 professionals in eight countries worldwide, including the U.S., Brazil, India, Germany and South Korea. The results revealed that men feel more confident about negotiating than women, with 37% of males feeling self-assured in their abilities, compared with just 26% 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 the most excited overall about negotiating and ranked second in confidence in their negotiation abilities.

"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."

[Read related article: 20 Resume Mistakes Keeping You From Getting a Job (and How to Fix Them)]

Rezvani offers several tips to take your negotiating skills to the next level:

  • Confer with your network. A network is the most underused tool in a negotiation. 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 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 the matter is closed for discussion when someone says no. Timing is everythingTry asking a second time under different circumstances.

  • Negotiate even if there's no precedent. It's OK 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 cutting 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.

Challenges of negotiating in the workplace

According to Management Study Guide, these are the biggest roadblocks to workplace negotation.

Culture rigidity

Organizations have cultures that they run by. Effective negotiation requires flexibility. Adopt a positive attitude, and both parties should adjust to each other's needs to find a solution. Be open to change; while things may have been achieved in a particular way for a long time, a new way of doing things does not necessarily mean failure.

Criticism, derogatory remarks and impatience

The fear of criticism for negotiating their needs often stops individuals from negotiating at all. Avoid saying anything that might hurt others' feelings during negotiation. Back up what you say with logic and evidence, not personal attacks. Leave emotion out of it; both parties only want to come up with the best solution.

Impatience also ruins negotiation. Allow others to express their views without interruption. While you might not agree with them, take time to listen to their point. Then calmly express your views, but don't expect them to immediately agree with you. Expecting quick results from negotiations often yields poor results. The party that wants to close the deal quickly often leaves the table dissatisfied.

Lack of preparation

Preparing for negotiations is essential for good results. Plan out crucial viewpoints that you would like to put forward, writing them down before the meeting if possible. Think about what the other party is likely to say so you can come up with possible responses. Remember the other party might have done as much research and be as passionate on the negotiated topic as you, so you have to know what you're talking about.

Additional tips to improve your negotiation skills

According to Strayer University and Santa Clara University, these are some ways to improve your chances of coming out on top of the negotiation.

  1. Always prepare. Again, you must know what you are going to say. Bring notes if possible. Research what viewpoints the other party is likely to put forward.
  2. Consider alternatives. Always have a backup plan. List what you can negotiate and what is nonnegotiable. It is essential to have in mind what you can compromise if the negotiation does not go as expected.
  3. Work on your communication skills. Effective communication is key to negotiation. You must be able to express your ideas in a way that everybody understands. Watch your tone of voice as well as your body language in check – the other parties will notice both and let if affect their perception of your position.
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