By Rebecca Zung, Esq.

Your palms are sweating and your heart is pounding. Is it because you are at your 7th grade dance? No, it’s because you are getting ready to negotiate your own pay raise, or negotiate the purchase of your next automobile. Many women feel completely confident going to bat on behalf of their children, friends or family. But when it comes to advocating for ourselves – we stumble and crumble.

Studies consistently show that the gender gap exists in virtually every profession in every field. Female attorneys in large law firms today are actually making less on the male dollar now than they were a decade ago. MSNBC recently ran an article declaring that that “pesky gender pay gap exists for doctors too.”

Why don’t women feel confident in negotiation? It may be that as women, we have been socialized since the days of sitting on the kindergarten floor while our teachers elicited responses to questions. The overly “expressive” girls were reminded to act like “ladies.” It may be a lack of confidence, not wanting to make waves, or worst of all, undervaluing ourselves. And yet, it is such an essential skill. We are negotiating in our daily lives constantly; in real estate, in business, in our work, in our marriage, with our children.

I Feel Confident
Your confidence level begins long before you enter into the actual negotiations. Start by knowing your topic inside and out. If you are buying a car, know what the dealer paid for it, what the trade-in value is and the retail value. If you are negotiating a raise, know what the going rate is for your position either at your firm or a similar one. Knowledge is your friend in this process. Also, prepare yourself physically. Choose an outfit that you love and know you look fabulous in. Do your hair and make-up. When you feel great, it shines through.

Preparation is the Key
Research is just one of the ways to prepare. It is also critical to know the other side’s position and why they may take that position. Be ready to address any points they may have. It is also important to have a range. Know what your best case scenario is and what your worst case scenario may be by knowing the strengths and weaknesses of your argument. A key point is to know your “choke point” before going in – and that means knowing ahead of time the point at which you will stand up and walk away - with your dignity fully intact.

During the Negotiation Process
When you go in to the process, have a list of what you want. Ask for a lot and expect less. Knowing what triggers upset for you is another important aspect to consider. Keeping your emotions in check and remaining calm is essential to maintain control of the overall process. Remember to come across as no-nonsense, confident and matter-of-fact. Never appear that you are worried, pleading or intimidated, even if your knees are knocking as you walk in.
It is essential to know your value and be ready to stand your ground for it. If your meeting is with your boss, prepare a summary of the contributions and value that you have made to the company. Be as specific as you can be. Then present those with no apologies, from a position of strength. Quality people are essential to a business, so you may even be more valuable to your company than the company is to you.

Before you leave the table, be sure to memorialize your agreement in writing and get it signed.

And Finally

One last point to remember – trust your gut. We as women have a very powerful intuition. If it feels wrong, it probably is wrong. The wrong reasons to agree are because you don’t want to “make waves”, because you don’t want someone to be mad at you, or worst of all, just because they harassed you into it and you just want it be over. Don’t agree to something that you don’t truly know instinctively is the absolutely best and right thing for yourself. You will regret it instantly and the resentment will gnaw at you and fester, robbing you from the closure you were seeking anyway.

In every moment, you and you alone, have the power to decide what your reality is and will be. And remember - other people will only value you to the level that you value yourself.