Why Leaders with Disabilities Bring a Secret Weapon to the Negotiating Table

When it comes to being a business leader with a disability, rather than feeling insecure about your limitations, take advantage of three character traits you have developed as a result of overcoming obstacles and use them to effectively negotiate.

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By Nancy Solari

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When you are in the thick of the negotiation process with a potential client or future business partner, the tools in your personal arsenal play a vital role in the outcome of the agreement.

As a business leader with a disability, you have a special skill set and point of view that others in your company likely don't have. Because of the physical or mental obstacles you have faced with your condition, you have a combination of distinctive qualities that you can harness to seal the deal in a way that is mutually beneficial to all parties.

Here are three useful traits that you bring to the negotiating table as a leader with a disability:

Resourcefulness: Necessity is the mother of invention

In the throes of negotiation, it is sometimes difficult to find solutions that satisfy all parties involved. As a leader with a disability, you are used to jumping through hoops in your own life, so you are able to bring clever ideas to the table that others might not consider.

Living with a disability means you've likely had to find different and creative ways of completing projects. For example, a vision or hearing impairment might make it difficult to manage your email inbox; however, through research your able-bodied peers may not have needed to conduct, you found software that simplifies certain tasks by acting as your eyes or ears. If you have a condition like ADHD, perhaps you've learned to utilize tools such as the Pomodoro technique to boost your efficiency.

Your disability has required you to become resourceful and think outside of the box. Being quick on your feet to find resolutions will set your company apart when you are negotiating.

This character trait allows you to quickly assess alternative options a client may not be able to see for themselves. If you are in the midst of negotiation and the client is hesitant to enter into a formal contract, the creative solutions you present will boost their confidence in you.

Related: 3 Ways Leaders With Disabilities Can Leverage Their Resources to Excel

Positivity: Find the silver lining

Along the lines of client hesitation, it's not uncommon for certain parties in a negotiation to seem unwilling to budge on their terms. A positive attitude can serve you well by easing tensions and leading to a mutually beneficial outcome.

While positivity isn't limited to a leader with a disability, if your condition means you have had to embrace a different lifestyle than your peers, you are probably a "glass is half full" type of person. For example, if you have a disorder such as epilepsy, you might not be able to drive. However, you have chosen to press forward and search in your local area for ride-shares like Uber and Lyft. Or maybe you have connected with a social group where you can take advantage of carpooling.

Instead of becoming consumed by your challenges, you have learned to see the positive in every situation — a character trait that translates well into your professional life. Perhaps you are negotiating rates with a potential business partner and the discussion is not going as smoothly as you hoped. They aren't willing to decrease certain costs of their services but instead are offering extra perks to sweeten the deal. It's easy to become frustrated in a situation like this and let that frustration end the negotiations with no one feeling satisfied. However, as someone who has overcome a fair share of hurdles, you understand the importance of seeing the silver lining. Maybe this extra perk they are offering is something you would have eventually purchased anyway.

Keeping a smile on your face and a positive attitude throughout the negotiation process — even when things don't go as you envisioned — will reflect well on you and your company as a whole. The other person will feed off your energy, resulting in a better outcome for all parties involved.

Related: 5 Ways Employees With Disabilities Help Maximize a Company's Growth

Empathy: Follow the 'Golden Rule'

When you are negotiating with a client who seems like a great fit or would make the perfect complement to your team but something seems to be holding them back, being understanding and listening to their concerns will gain their trust and keep them open to creative solutions.

Having lived with your disability, you naturally see the world through an empathetic lens. After all, society is not always kind when you have limitations. If you are wheelchair-bound, for example, you have probably noticed accessibility issues at many business establishments. When your needs have been ignored, your sense of empathy will make you want to avoid doing the same to others.

It is essential to anticipate and consider the other party's concerns when you are in the negotiation process. Place yourself in their shoes. Showing compassion and understanding someone else's hesitations and what they hope to get out of your partnership will go a long way. Perhaps you are pitching your services to a prospective client, but they have concerns about the cost and time investment. They have been burned in the past by a vendor who did not meet their expectations, and they don't want to repeat their mistakes.

As someone with a disability, you are likely more willing to provide accommodations because you know firsthand the feeling of having your concerns dismissed. Together you might decide to do daily or weekly check-ins by phone or email to discuss progress on the project. Or maybe you agree to accepting payment in increments rather than upfront. Whatever the solution may be, they'll be grateful for your willingness to take steps to ease their minds.

Your personal qualities as a leader with a disability go a long way at the negotiating table. When you leverage your unique perspective and character traits of resourcefulness, positivity and empathy, you will find success in negotiations, your partnerships will strengthen and your business will grow.

Related: Leaders With Disabilities Have Instincts That Inspire Their Teams and Stimulate Productivity

Nancy Solari

Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor

CEO of Living Full Out

Nancy Solari is an accomplished CEO, business and life coach, writer and motivational speaker. As host of the national radio show 'Living Full Out with Nancy Solari,' she shares her tools for success with audiences and organizations all around the country.

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