I know so many strong, powerful, and accomplished women. I feel lucky to have met so many who are total badasses. It keeps me inspired and motivated. And I like knowing I’m in good company :)
What surprises me, though, is how many of these women – who are often fierce advocates for others – don’t advocate on their own behalf. Sometimes it’s not wanting to negotiate a job offer or increase in pay; other times, it’s not negotiating a conflict or boundary.
I hear all sorts of reasons why. “I don’t want to be seen as a problem or selfish or ungrateful for pushing too hard.” “I don’t want to lose the job because someone would do it for less.” “I don’t trust myself to negotiate ‘right’ and I don’t want to fail.” “I’m afraid of how it will feel to hear no.” “I don’t think I have a lot of power or leverage.” “I want to be liked and I don’t like conflict.”
What’s at the bottom of all of this?
Yep, you guessed it: FEAR.
Fear of failure, fear of rejection, fear of retaliation, fear of loss. Because, it’s true, when we negotiate, we are taking a risk.
But, there are also risks – sometimes grave ones – to not negotiating, to not asking, to not advocating for ourselves.
We have to weigh these against each other in each situation that comes up. But fairly. What do I mean by that? I mean that before we choose to forego (forfeit) a negotiation, we have to have done our due diligence to identify and address our fears. Only once we’ve made some progress in this area can we clearly see what the risks are on both sides and how they square with each other.
I’m willing to bet that most of us are plenty familiar with the risks to negotiating (rejection, embarrassment, loss, etc.), and find it much more challenging to name the risks to not negotiating (e.g., a different kind of loss, defeat, surrender, settling, disappointment, stagnation, regression, maintaining the status quo).
So what can we do about this?
Here’s one thing you can try: first, identify what’s holding you back from negotiating for more. Write down all the fears present for you. Is it fear of failure? Is it fear of losing something?
Once you’ve identified them, journal about the worst case scenario that’s playing in your head or lurking in the back of your mind. Don’t be afraid to dig deep.
Then, zoom out and try to take a more objective view. Ask yourself how realistic that worst case scenario is. What, really, are the chances of it happening in real life? 20%? 40%? 5%?
Next, do a similar process for the risks associated with not negotiating. What will you lose if you choose not to negotiate? What’s the worst case scenario of not negotiating? And how likely is that to become your reality if you pass on negotiating?
Hopefully, this introspective process helps bring you some clarity. And don’t forget to be compassionate with yourself throughout. This is heavy stuff that takes a lot of time and work to unpack.
Obviously, you know my bias here, which is that we, women, should be negotiating and asking for a helluva lot more than we currently are. Because I think it’s really important.
I want all women and non-binary folks to understand and really internalize that everything is negotiable. It’s past time for us to start demanding our due (and then some).
***By the way, if you, like me, are into this kind of thing, check out We Deserve More. I’d love for you to join us for a half-day workshop and circle on negotiation on Saturday, October 20!***