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I Know What I’m Doing

“I guess they know what they’re doing’’ is a strange assumption to make, especially at the expense of ‘’I know what I’m doing’’, and one that many women relate to too often.

In any negotiation, it is only natural that the other side should try to convince us that we are wrong in arguing with them, or challenging what they assert to be true. At best, they are simply busy believing what they hold to be true is actually true. At worst they’ve spent years in an environment that sees negotiation as a dual, in which tripping your opponent or mud throwing are legitimate tools. The question is when you let yourself be convinced by their assertion, and why.

We should entertain the belief that we are at least as entitled and able to shape the outcomes of situations involving us as others involved in them, not to mention third parties who express confidence in having a say in them. If we don’t think our input is valid, relevant and important, why should anyone else?

Why then, don’t women always feel this way? One possible reason is that women are repeatedly told by society that this is not the case. Naturally, if women are for centuries bombarded with millions of daily messages chastising them for expressing an opinion, or sowing doubt in their capability of changing a lightbulb or going to the auto mechanic’s, the concept that we are not really capable at all is internalised. In some countries, a woman is still forbidden to leave the house without her husband’s permission. She is literally told that she is incapable of making the decision to cross a doorstep!

We’re faced with a double-edged sword: repeatedly accused of not being good at things, and then told off or dismissed when we do them well. This dynamic serves as a huge disincentive to negotiation, and learning to sidestep it is a key tool for better negotiating.

We must begin by challenging the notion that others know better than us what they’re doing. The assumption that there is a universal ‘’knowing what’s right’’, that only external authorities that are not us hold, must be thrown out the window, especially when it comes to our interests. You need to believe that you know what you’re doing.

Do I know what I’m doing?

Confidence and the ability to identify what you want are a muscle. If you’ve grown up in an environment encouraging you to work on those muscles that’s great. But many women are raised in an environment discouraging too strong an opinion, or are not always exposed to opportunities to express preference or opinion.

“Fake it till you make it”, if you are unaccustomed to openly acknowledging what you want and why, can only take you a very limited way. A good negotiator means having the capability to identify what you really want and ground yourself in a mature and deep understanding why you want it. If you want to negotiate well, you better start working on that muscle, and if you don’t have that down, you will lose even when faced with the most benevolent and harmless of negotiation counterparts.

This is the basic and most foundational condition for negotiation- Know what you are doing. Come confident that you know what you want and why you want it. Bring this notion to the front of your consciousness, having established both beforehand. Even if you are still unsure how to formulate what you want eloquently, but know you want it, have faith in yourself that there is good reason for you wanting it.

Let’s take a simple example- you’re trying to decide on a restaurant with a friend. You say, “What about India Kitchen?” tentatively. They answer “Nah Let’s go to India Delicacies, it’s much better”. You’ve both made suggestions, but if you’re the kind of person who would decide to go with your friend’s option, “because they sound like they know what they want/what’s better”, take a pause.

As long as no justification was made you are on the same page. No need to automatically be antagonistic towards your friend’s suggestion, but take a second to think! Why did I want that place? Maybe it’s closer to my house, cheaper, or suits my dietary restrictions. Give yourself the benefit of the doubt that the reason you liked that place is at least potentially as valid as your friend’s reason until proven otherwise. Be moved by facts and not gesticulations or hot air (see last week’s post for more on hot air)!

Already know what you’re doing? Next week’s post will discuss those situations where your counterpart is unphased by demonstrated competence, and insists on treating you like an incapable child.

My gift to you this holiday season, Women the Workshop’s feelgood, kick-ass playlist to get you into the right mindset for any negotiation!

Happy Holidays!

Yasmine Guerin

Founder of Negotiatress

Originally posted on December 22, 2019 by Negotiatress



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