If the very idea of negotiating a price makes you cringe, then take a moment, sit back, and think of all the compromises you have probably already brokered just today. Any of you that have young children will likely be able to think of at least a dozen moments or more that you have brokered in just the last hour! As parents many of us know that a day spent with preschoolers can often seem like nothing less than one long negotiation. And for those of you who are wondering what I could possibly mean I shall be more than happy to share with you just a sampling from what you might hear in my home on any given day. "You can wear your Power Rangers costume from three years ago so long as you promise not to go outside the house." "If you'll put that snake down right now daddy and I will go get you a dog tomorrow." "If you'll please sit on the potty for just five more minutes I'll let you stay up late to play Xbox with daddy." While most parents may not be great negotiators their child's ability to haggle appears inherently perfected for one with so little life experience. Could there be something that these future Monty Hall's or Donald Trump's can teach us that will help us become master's in the fine art of negotiation?
Perhaps we should begin by asking ourselves how it is that we are so willing to quibble over who will pick up the toys day after day, and yet be so reluctant to haggle over the price of the everyday items we purchase? For many of us, especially women, societal pressures seem to present the largest stumbling blocks. Most women are the caretakers and peacemakers in our society. We have been told, since childhood, to mind our manners and not to "make waves." We believe and feel that it would be rude or in bad taste to haggle over the price of something because we have been told that it is selfish to ask for thing for ourselves. There may also be the fear that you will be judged as difficult, pushy, and even, unfeminine if you pursue a better deal. Unfortunately, most retailers know these things about their female consumers and are known to flaunt this knowledge while using it to their utmost advantage. Several recent studies have shown that American women are routinely paying more on new car purchases than men. This is due in part to our reluctance to negotiate a better deal for ourselves because it will make someone uncomfortable.
I find that these attitudes appear to be in sharp contrast to many foreign countries, where negotiating is an accepted and expected step in any transaction. In fact, when you are in any foreign open-air market, not haggling can be regarded as quite an insult. Most American women, however, would find it only acceptable at garage sales, thrift stores and during a private party transaction? It may seem to the consumer, here in the States, that the large national retail chains are even less likely consider negotiating the price of their merchandise, but that doesn't mean they won't play "Let's Make a Deal". Especially when you employ the right method and skills when you are making them an offer they can't refuse! All you have to do now is let go of some of those preconceived notions you're holding on to and get yourself to the bargaining table. Then get ready to face whatever anxiety comes about when you begin negotiating a better deal for yourself.
Fortunately, for most women, the reluctance to negotiate with others can be easily overcome. This reluctance can be more quickly overcome when women are aware that they will encounter a whole different set of rules for negotiating a deal than their male counterparts. These "unique" pitfalls are simply a result of the boundaries, which we already discussed, that our society has established and continues to recognize regarding "acceptable" female behavior.
Take, for example, the scenario of a woman who begins negotiating for her new car in what can be taken for an overly direct, "pushy," demanding, or condescending manner. This particular woman will probably find the other party strongly resisting to give her anything she is proposing; because, they have been annoyed and aggravated by a bad first impression. This is sad and silly, but it's a fact of life in the world we live and work in today.
Women need to "manage" the impressions they create if we don't want to become disheartened by the negotiating process. This can be easily accomplished by using "friendly" body language (such as smiling and making warm eye contact) and by clearly stating a desire to find a solution that will be advantageous to everyone. I have found that this approach will almost always allow you to be in control of the negotiation without seeming threatening. Many women, myself included, feel much more comfortable approaching any negotiating opportunity by considering it a collaborative effort. It is important to start off by exhibiting a "win/win" attitude. Never be afraid to disagree with anything you feel is contrary to your own interests. No will be the most powerful word you use in negotiating. This will make it clear to the other party that you are both authentic and credible, thereby making it easier for you to satisfy your terms.
Now that we have covered some of the basic "rules of engagement" for successful negotiating it's time to move on to what you can do to get out there and start bargaining for what you really want. The easiest way to start is by using those negotiating skills that work best with your own family. For example, you might know that gaining your preschooler's cooperation through threats and intimidation is often not as successful as preparing ahead of time for the wait at the checkout counter in the grocery store with a distraction or the promise of a reward. Similarly, salespeople respond more positively to thoughtful, well-informed questions than a forceful overbearing attitude. Whether you're shopping for a "big bed" for your toddler, or refinancing the mortgage on your home, these five tips can help you get the best deal.
1) Research is definitely an experienced negotiator's best friend and, in time, will become yours as well. It will be that much harder to negotiate successfully if you feel that the other party is better informed than you. Thoroughly researching a purchase will raise your confidence level when you start haggling for what you know is the best price.
2) Always ask a store to meet or beat a better price from one of their competitors. This is where your advance preparation and research will help the most. If you've seen an ad showing similar merchandise at a lower cost be sure to bring the advertisement with you. This will lend a great deal of credibility to the offer you are putting on the table.
3) Always have alternatives in mind before you decide to buy anything. Be ready and willing to walk away from the deal empty handed if you reach an impasse and are not getting the best deal you know that you can. Remind yourself that the more options you've considered the better your negotiating position will be when its time to walk or buy.
4) Emphasize the win-win. Most women may find that this is the easiest step for them, because we are born caretakers. The majority of the women that I know would rather negotiate on the behalf of someone else rather than themselves. It will likely be very easy to phrase your comments so the other person feels they are getting what they want out of the transaction or more.
Sometimes, just recognizing that you have a tendency to put others' needs ahead of your own will be enough to begin changing your behavior. If you do your homework, you'll know what's fair and reasonable to request and offer. Never settle for less than what you know is the best bargain or deal that you can make.
Don't be afraid to do a little "self talk." Before you start a negotiation of any kind, give yourself a little pep talk. Go over all the reasons why you know that this offer, bargain or compromise will be the best for everyone involved. You are always your own toughest audience. So once you have convinced yourself that you are making the best choice, you'll have no trouble convincing everyone else to agree that you are right.
Learning to negotiate will empower you. You'll learn to decide what you will agree to and what you definitely aren't willing to accept. You'll gain the ability to define your own terms for any given situation, which will ensure that your needs are satisfied. Negotiating well will help you to get what you want, not only from a financial perspective, but in your personal life as well. Once you master the art of negotiating, you'll soon recognize that the only real limits to what you can achieve are those you place on yourself.