Negotiating for a raise or a promotion may not be your idea of fun. But New York City mediator Elizabeth Clemants says that the ability to build trust and rapport—which women are naturally quite good at, thank you—also makes us nimble negotiators. Clemants's tips will help you get what you want—and feel immensely more at ease asking for it.
Illustration: asking boss for a raise
Credit: Robert Samuel Hanson

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Illustration: asking boss for a raise
Credit: Robert Samuel Hanson

1 Share Context.

"Sure, you want a $10,000 salary bump. But what's the deeper reason you're asking for more money? Maybe it's acknowledgement, career advancement, equal pay, or simply that you're struggling to make ends meet. You'll want to start the conversation there—because if you just say you want cash and they say there's a salary freeze, you're stuck. Stating the motivation behind your request opens the door for a deeper conversation and a variety of solutions."

2 Set a Positive Tone.

"Walk in light, friendly, and open. Say, "Thanks for taking the time to meet"—that puts everyone at ease. I recently had to talk to a teacher on behalf of some disgruntled parents. The teacher came into the meeting knowing that everyone hated her, but she smiled, shook my hand, and said she hoped we could work something out. I was so impressed, and this made me listen. Because of how she approached it, I wanted to help her get what she needed rather than nail her to the cross. She changed the playing field in the first 30 seconds."

3 Look At It Like Brainstorming.

"Where negotiation goes wrong is when you shoot things down before seeing the whole picture. It's really a chance for both sides to put everything on the table. Even if something is not acceptable, say you'll consider it; one idea triggers another. To open up a conversation further, ask a powerful question, like "What's your commitment to employee growth?" Maybe you'll end up taking classes or heading up a new project or moving to the Brussels office for a year. By staying positive, there are more things on the table to trade."

4 Bounce the Ball Back and Forth.

"After you state your case, calmly and with confidence, listen carefully to the other person's side, then restate his or her perspective. This helps people soften, because they know they've been heard, and it's a conversation rather than an attack. But try to reflect their words in a way that keeps things flowing. Rather than saying, "So you can't give me any money," say, "I'm hearing the company isn't doing well but there may be raises when cash flow improves." Now there's some wiggle room."

5 Exit Gracefully.

"It's crucial to leave on a high note, whatever happens. If you got what you wanted, great. But if not and you're noticeably angry, they'll think, She's annoyed. She's done. We may as well stop putting resources into her. Be gracious. Say that you hope that you can still come to some sort of a solution. Negotiation is a process, not just one conversation. It's more important to maintain the relationship than to immediately get what you want."