My Views

5 Things Women Should Never Say When Negotiating

Call me naive, but I find it shocking that in the 21st century, women still make less than men. The facts are sobering: The average woman makes about 77 percent of a man’s salary in the same position. Asking for what you want—and deserve—can help move that 77 percent toward 100.

Women with children make even less, according to the National Committee on Pay Equity. A recent University of New Mexico study shows moms earn 14 percent less than women without children.

I hesitate to blame the victims, but women need to stand up for themselves when they are negotiating. Research shows that women negotiate as well as men do when they are arguing for other people, not for themselves, says Victoria Pynchon (pictured).

“They aren’t bad negotiators, but they have been enculturated not to ask for things for themselves,” says Pynchon, co-founder of She Negotiates Sales and Training, a consultancy based in Los Angeles. “They hesitate, and when they do go out on a limb, they often are on the receiving end of cultural blowback.”

This cultural consequence can come in many forms. When people step out of cultural roles, others become uncomfortable and often show disregard or express anger, she explains. So, women accept unfavorable conditions and may even bypass negotiating altogether.

“The biggest mistake women make is to not negotiate at all,” Pynchon says. “They are happy to have a job and they don’t recognize that they have an opportunity to help shape the terms. Because we tend to compare our income to the income of our women friends, we are all operating at a level of wage gap.”

How can you negotiate better terms for yourself and thereby help close the gender wage gap? Start by staying away from the following phrases.

I’m sorry

Women tend to apologize for things they shouldn’t. Apologizing in the negotiating room lessens the weight of your argument. Stay away from saying things like, “I’m sorry to ask for this, but I feel that I deserve a raise.”

Don’t discount your worth right out of the gate with language like, “My rate is $5,000. I know that’s a lot, so I’m willing to take 20 percent off for you.”

“Just stop apologizing, period,” Pynchon adds. “You are already being valued less because you are a woman. Be confident.”

What if you receive blowback?

“Say, ‘I’m surprised that you would pay me anything less than market value,’” Pynchon says. “Don’t get mad back at them, just be measured and direct the conversation to a resolution.”

I feel

It may be second nature to express how you feel about a topic, but those words need to be kept out of negotiations, according to Beverly D. Flaxington, co-founder of The Collaborative, a business consultancy in Medfield, Mass.

“Most negotiations are about facts, data and information. Once you talk about feelings, you lose credibility,” she says. “Asking the other person how they feel can be off-putting. Why are you trying to understand what’s underneath their actions?”

OK (at first offer)

Pynchon instructs her clients to always make the first proposal. If the hiring representative says no to your proposal, respond with questions.

“Say, ‘what about this offer is not palatable to you?’ she says. “Start high or low enough to permit them to make at least three concessions.”

I never thought of that

Do your research pre-negotiation. If, during the process, the opposing party presents something surprising (or outright shocking), maintain composure, advises Alan Guinn, managing director and CEO of The Guinn Consultancy Group in Bristol, Tenn.

“Then walk away from the table, do your research and come back,” he says. “Always let the other side of the negotiation assume that you know everything about a topic.”


The point of a negotiation is to “drive the conversation to an agreement,” says Pynchon. Saying ‘no’ closes off the conversation and makes it difficult to start back up.

Pynchon offers an example: Your hourly fee is $350 but a potential client tells you he can only pay $200 per hour. Instead of saying no, ask “Why it is you can’t pay more than $200 for this service?” Or, try something like this: “Having talked about my services, I think that I will benefit your company in X ways. What is it about this figure that is [difficult] for you?”

Continue the conversation with phrases such as “I hear what you are saying,” and “Tell me something about that.”

She says, “It’s all about active listening and trust building.”


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s