Introverts often hesitate to negotiate for what they truly want – whether it’s a higher salary or a better business deal. But with a little courage and practice, introverts can excel in negotiations.
I’m an attorney and regularly negotiate contracts on behalf of my clients. I have discovered that the best negotiators aren’t arrogant, ruthless, and overbearing. On the contrary, the best negotiators are polite and firm, respectful and direct. They work in a collaborative fashion to find solutions that work for everyone.
Introverts tend to be prepared, thoughtful, and outwardly calm. They have the unique ability to ask probing questions and learn a great deal about the motivations and thought processes of the people around them. By channeling these natural gifts, introverts can flourish as negotiators and become their own best advocates.
Here are eight tried-and-true negotiation tips.
- Ask for it.
Often, simply asking for what you want is half the battle. Gather your courage, do your research (more on that below), and be prepared to seize the opportunity. A Harvard Business Review study found that 57% of male MBA graduates from Carnegie Mellon tried to negotiate their initial salary offer. By comparison, only 7% of female graduates from the same program tried to bargain for more. The result? The male MBAs’ salaries were almost 7.6% higher on average. The takeaway is simple – when the timing is right, jump in and ask for it. If you don’t ask, you’ll never know.
- Do your homework.
Introverts tend to shine when they’ve had the chance to adequately research and process information in advance. Before negotiating, back up your position with thorough market research. If you’re negotiating salary, look at typical salaries for your position in your geographic area. If you’re negotiating a large purchase or business deal, do some digging on typical terms and market prices. Look for multiple reputable sources to back up your position. In negotiations, knowledge is power – after all, it’s hard to argue with the facts.
- Determine your “bottom.”
Typically, introverts prefer to have solutions ready in advance (instead of being forced to think on-the-spot in an overwhelming situation). Ideally, you won’t end up at your bottom price. But you must be prepared for the worst-case scenario. Figure out the lowest price, or the least advantageous terms, that you’re willing to accept. Factor in how much you want the deal to go through and how easy (or difficult) it would be to obtain a comparable deal from someone else. If the negotiations get difficult, you may need to bring up your final offer and walk away if they refuse to budge.
It may feel silly at first, but rehearsing in advance is an excellent way to grease the wheels on your negotiating skills (especially if you don’t negotiate on a regular basis). Try writing out a script. Anticipate the other person’s potential objections, prepare appropriate responses, and then file them away in your mental arsenal. If you have no idea how you’re coming across, you may also want to film yourself. With today’s technology, this is easier than ever. You can film yourself on your iPhone or computer, then play it back to assess your voice and body language.
- Ask open-ended questions.
Introverts often have a secret superpower – asking insightful questions and carefully listening to the answers. If you’re an introvert, your ability to ask thoughtful questions can be one of your strongest negotiating tools. For example, you may ask questions in order to understand the other person’s position and gather information to inform your next move. Or you may ask questions to stall for time. Alternately, you may want to shift the discussion and propose alternative solutions. For example, you might say “have you considered this course of action?” or “what do you think about proceeding this way?”
- Avoid wishy-washy language.
Your language impacts how others perceive your level of confidence and credibility. Avoid minimizing language, such as “I just” (“I just thought that…” or “I just wanted to ask if….”) Steer clear of “I think” and “I feel.” These phrases put the focus on you and your subjective opinions, rather than your substantive points. For example, instead of saying “I think my salary is below market,” say “my salary is below market, based on XYZ studies.” Finally, if you are intending to make a statement, do not inflect upwards at the end of a sentence. Say “the market supports this salary” rather than “the market supports this salary?”
- Use the power of the pause.
Introverts tend to be naturally thoughtful and judicious with their words. Embrace this. Instead of rushing to fill the silence, leave a thoughtful pause at strategic points in the discussion (for example, when things get tense or heated). This helps you appear strong and confident and may prompt the other person to jump in with a comment, elaborate on their position, or propose an alternative course of action. If someone asks you a surprising or off-putting question, pause before responding. A moment of silence may nudge the other person into further explaining or qualifying their position.
- Be nice and firm.
People often think that negotiations are nasty, heated, and unpleasant affairs with a clear “winner” and “loser.” But in reality, negotiations work best when both parties walk away feeling satisfied. To boost the chances of a win-win resolution, realize that being polite and civilized actually works to your advantage. Don’t feel like you have to turn into an aggressive fist-pounder or cutthroat negotiator to accomplish your goals. In fact, being respectful but firm tends to yield better results, reflect well on your personal integrity, and foster long-term business relationships.