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4 Things to Do When You're in a Negotiation

The executive director and CEO of WIN Summit shares her advice for entrepreneurs looking to elevate their negotiation skills.


Daniella Kahane is the executive director and CEO of WIN (Women in Negotiation) Summit and an award-winning filmmaker. She sat down with Jessica Abo to share the four things you should do when negotiating.

Daniella, why is negotiation so important?

Kahane: Most people think of negotiation as this very adversarial activity that they have to do maybe once a year, or once a month, something that doesn't really apply to their day-to-day lives. And that kind of perception of negotiation often keeps us stuck because when we don't like doing something, we tend to avoid it, and we don't practice it. And then we don't get better at it.

Negotiation is critical to our day-to-day interactions. Any time you have a conversation where you care about the outcome of that conversation, where you have a need, and want to get that need met, that is a negotiation. And so when you are able to zoom out on negotiation and see it as something that you are doing every day, throughout the day, you are able to be more intentional about it, practice it, and grow in it.

Related: FBI Negotiation Tactics You Can Use to Get What You Need

And why is your work with negotiation so meaningful for you?

Kahane: I've observed over the years too many times, whether it be my peers, friends, etc., women feeling uncomfortable self-advocating. And yet, we are born knowing how to ask. We are born knowing how to get our needs met as babies. And then something happens when we hit a certain age and we are told to retract. We are told to bypass our own needs and put somebody else's needs ahead of our own. We are told to take up less space.

It has become a passion of mine to help expand the frame for women. To help women see themselves as entitled. To help women tune into their strengths, tune into their value, tune into their worth, and then better articulate that to the world. And so whether I'm doing that through WIN, or through my films, with a new company, which I'm super excited to be able to share that is going to be a media company for women created by women to bring more diverse stories of women through history or in present day to the screen, I feel really privileged to be doing the work I'm doing. And I'm grateful to all of my female predecessors before me who paved the road.

You have your big WIN Summit coming up. Tell us about that.

Kahane: WIN (Women in Negotiation) Summit is the premier female-focused negotiation training and leadership development event. We are planning our sixth annual summit to take place virtually on June 1. So you can join from anywhere in the world. It will be a jam-packed day of learning, of skills development, of connection, and of growth. We really hope to see you there.

Related: Effective Networking Requires Mastering These 5 Skills

And finally, what are the four things you think people should do when they're in a negotiation?

Kahane: Number one, know your value. We often think that negotiation starts when we're sitting opposite a counterparty, but actually negotiation begins with the self. We are our first adversaries and we have been conditioned to give our power away as women, but we need to reclaim that power. We need to get in touch with our value. And in order to do that, we need to lose the imposter syndrome. We need to lose the negative self-talk.

There are two strategies that I recommend for getting in touch with your self-value. One, write a self-value or self-worthstatement, but ask your best advocate, your best cheerleader to help you write it. Speak to your mother or your best friend or your spouse, and come up with that self-value statement together that goes past the accolades of, "I went to so and so university." Or, "This is my title at work." Get to the core of the value that you bring as an individual. Then read that statement out loud for yourself in the mirror while you're looking at yourself, like you believe it. The second strategy would be to keep a "Win Journal" so that every day or every week you are actually logging and tracking the things that you are accomplishing. It forces you to get in a space of what it is that you have accomplished as opposed to everything that you haven't. And as humans, we are conditioned to see the lack, or to see the things that are not there, rather than to acknowledge all it is that we do accomplish on a daily basis.

Number two, do your research. This also has to do with preparation, but in order to go into a negotiation, armed with facts, you need to actually take the time in advance to do the work. If it's a salary negotiation, ask your peers about what fair market value is, what they're making, ask. Do your research about the company that you're negotiating with as well. You're interviewing them just as much as they're interviewing you. And you have to remember that. And also do your research in terms of yourself, in terms of where it is that you want to be going. And this connects with your value, because if you don't know your value, then you're not necessarily going to be able to answer those questions for yourself in the best mind space. In order to steer the conversation you want to ask yourself, what would a win look like to me in this conversation? What would a win look like to my counterpart in this conversation? And then how can I marry the two?

Number three, bring your best self into a conversation. When we are stressed, we go into flight or fight mode. And when we're in flight or fight mode, our brain literally closes up. And in a negotiation, you want to be in a state of mind of openness, of possibility, of creative problem solving, of solution finding. And all of that works in the opposite direction if we're in flight or fight mode, and when we're stressed. You want to do things in advance of a negotiation and inside of a negotiation that can help calm your nervous system that can help you keep yourself in that open state of mind, such as diaphragmatic breathing, which has scientifically been proven to lower cortisol in your body and to increase oxygen flow to your brain. Another thing you can try is Power Posing. It has been shown that people feel more confident and more powerful after they have taken a power pose for 30 seconds. Combine the two in advance of a negotiation. Also use mirror neurons to your advantage: the neuron in your brain that actually lights up when somebody is smiling at you and conditions you to smile back. We want to demonstrate or model for our counterparty, what it is that we're looking for out of them. And if we want somebody to be open-minded and positive towards us, we want to demonstrate that towards them.

Lastly, number four, embrace the no. We are terrified of hearing no, or of rejection. And that's all normal. But much of the time, no can actually be our friend. I want to challenge us to see no, not as the be all end all, where you throw your hands up and say "I guess it's over." But actually use it as a very important gift that your counterparty is giving you. Because when you hear no, you understand that there is an issue at hand and you can then ask why to get behind the no, or around it. Use it as a tool to then ask the right questions to uncover where the no is coming from. And if you've done that work and you're still hitting a wall and the no is still a no, then see it as the next opportunity. NO is equal to Next Opportunity. And know that not every door is meant to open for you.

But hopefully that closed door will lead you to the right open door, the right next opportunity.

Related: 10 Tips to Negotiate Like a Boss


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