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This Workplace Expert's 'Brainwashing'-Esque Technique Will Help You Get the Raise You Deserve TEDx speaker and executive coach Henna Pryor reveals how to talk your way into the salary and role you desire.

By Amanda Breen

Key Takeaways

  • Fifty-five percent of people won't ask for a raise or promotion because they're afraid to do so.
  • Workplace-performance expert Henna Pryor shares how to use "good awkward" to your advantage.
  • Women especially can benefit from verbalizing their achievements prior to negotiations, Pryor says.
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Courtesy of A La KET PR

It can be nerve-wracking to ask for a raise or promotion. In fact, most people (55%) won't even start the conversation because they're afraid they won't know what to say (16%) or are worried they'll appear greedy (15%), according to a survey from Reed Recruitment. For many, another uncomfortable feeling accompanies those fears: awkwardness.

The definition of the word might vary depending on who you ask, but when it comes to negotiations in the workplace, it can be described as "the emotion that we feel when the person we believe ourselves to be is momentarily at odds or facing a gap with the person who is on display," Henna Pryor, workplace-performance expert and author of Good Awkward: How to Embrace the Embarrassing and Celebrate the Cringe to Become the Bravest You, says.

In other words, when you're negotiating for the raise you deserve and don't get the response you hope for (perhaps your manager gives you a quizzical look instead), your identity at that moment doesn't align with the person you perceive yourself to be — one who's worthy of a pay bump or promotion, Pryor explains.

Before becoming an executive coach and speaker, Pryor spent 14 years in executive search and staffing, so these types of conversations have been her "lifeblood" for two decades. She knows that awkwardness can be inherent in such negotiations but says it's only "bad" if it prevents someone from going after what they want. Otherwise, it's "good;" with strategic preparation, it gets people one step closer to their goals.

Related: 5 Important Lessons 'Shark Tank' Teaches Us About Negotiation

Entrepreneur sat down with Pryor to learn more about how to harness the power of "good awkward" in make-or-break workplace conversations, from a "brainwashing"-adjacent method that helps get everyone on the same page to a rehearsal strategy that women might find particularly useful ahead of Equal Pay Day (in 2022, American women earned 82 cents for every dollar earned by men).

"I jokingly say in some of my keynotes, 'Don't go tell your friends that Henna taught you how to brainwash.'"

First, when you're going into a negotiation for a raise or promotion, it's important not to think it will be "like a game of ping-pong," where there will be a quick back-and-forth as you feel each other out and "see how it goes." Instead, it's strategic to keep the conversation "focused on a place of agreement," Pryor says. For instance, you might ask your manager if they agree that your contributions for the quarter have had a positive impact on the team's performance and if there's room in the budget to reward high performers, she explains.

"I jokingly say in some of my keynotes, 'Don't go tell your friends that Henna taught you how to brainwash,'" Pryor quips, "but this is actually how brainwashing works — slowly getting a set of agreements, of affirmations, of 'yes' questions to [make it feel like] you're on the same page. If you can get good at that, it cracks the world much wider open for you."

Related: A Negotiation Expert Shares Tactics from Elon Musk's Twitter Deal Every Entrepreneur Should Know

"If you can align your successes with their success, it makes it easier for them to advocate on your behalf."

You should also consider framing your contributions in terms of the other person's success, Pryor says. Asking for a raise or promotion can feel "self-serving," Pryor notes, and while it's crucial to acknowledge our own achievements, we shouldn't forget that "we have somebody on the other side of the table that also needs to go to bat for us."

"Try to frame [your achievements] in a way [that reveals] how they contributed to that manager's goals or that HR person's goals," Pryor explains. "Because if they can frame it from their standpoint — if you can align your successes with their success, it makes it easier for them to advocate on your behalf for your raise or for your promotion."

Related: 15 Daily Habits That Will Help You Get a Raise

"We have is to practice putting these words and phrases into our mouth well before we need them."

Additionally, you should practice talking about these achievements before negotiations. Many people might feel uncomfortable speaking highly of their own performance, especially women who still grapple with "decades of systemic [expectations to] be quiet and sweet and gracious and accommodating," Pryor says.

"For women, one of the single greatest opportunities we have is to practice putting these words and phrases into our mouth well before we need them," Pryor says. "I often find that women, especially, when it comes to asking for a raise or asking for a promotion, [it's] the first time that these women have ever said these words out loud. They've never spoken them into a room."

Related: It's Equal Pay Day, and This Twitter Bot Is Calling Out Companies That Pay Men More Than Women

Neuroscience research shows that when people practice an activity repeatedly, their neural networks shape themselves accordingly — essentially laying "the tracks on the road" that help us succeed when the stakes are high, Pryor says.

"I encourage [women to] constantly share your wins with your peers [and] have a hype squad of other women that you can practice saying these things to," Pryor adds. "Practice advocating for the raise; practice talking about the salary that you want. Because the first time that you say these words can't be in that high-stakes moment. It's too easy to freeze."

"[Silence] is extremely powerful because it prompts the other party to offer more information or maybe make concessions."

Finally, although it can pay (literally) to say all of the right things, don't underestimate the power of silence. Once you ask for the raise or promotion, you might want to fill the space that follows with hedging lines — for example, saying you understand if a salary adjustment isn't possible at that time — but it's not as effective as simply letting the person across from you sit with your case for a moment, Pryor says.

Related: How Talking Less Could Land You Your Next 6-Figure Job

"[Silence] is extremely powerful because it prompts the other party to offer more information or maybe make concessions or consider taking the request more seriously," Pryor explains. "But often people struggle to sit in that silence, which makes the whole thing even more uncomfortable and unbearable."

Amanda Breen

Entrepreneur Staff

Senior Features Writer

Amanda Breen is a senior features writer at Entrepreneur.com. She is a graduate of Barnard College and received an MFA in writing at Columbia University, where she was a news fellow for the School of the Arts.

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