3 Ways to Practice Your Negotiation Skills

This post is the first of my Negotiation Series, where I’ll share real-life anecdotes and tips to help you build the confidence to ask (and get) what you want.

For some people, the thought of negotiating is just as scary as public speaking. They’d rather hide under their shell than do it. I know because this used to be me.

Whether you’d like to have a higher salary or enjoy more flexibility, asking for things is awkward. It’s easier to hope the other person will magically meet your needs, but how likely is that to happen? Hoping is passive. Of course, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all strategy that guarantees your desired outcome, but taking matters into your own hands is a more proactive (and promising) approach.

Negotiating may be uncomfortable, but the struggle is just as real as being underpaid or unfulfilled. Put this way, getting through the difficult conversation doesn’t seem like as big a deal. Yet, it doesn’t make it easier.

The hardest part of a negotiation is initiating the conversation. It takes a mix of self-confidence, fearlessness and detachment from the outcome to push yourself to bring it up. So doing that alone is a sort of victory.

So how does one build the courage to negotiate? These 3 strategies will help you develop the mindset and boost your confidence to go after what you want.

Get in the habit of asking for help/things

As humans, we generally tend to try to figure out everything on our own because we often feel too embarrassed to admit we need help. Sooner or later, we realize that there are things we simply cannot do on our own.

Asking for help can be just as awkward as negotiating a new salary. Both scenarios make you feel vulnerable, but you can train yourself to get over it if you start by asking for smaller things or negotiating less important details. Here are some real-life scenarios where you can practice:

  • Email the CEO of a big company and offer your help. Challenge yourself to find what you can contribute to their company. Then follow up. You might never hear from them, but the point is to be bold enough to send the email. This will make you more comfortable engaging people with a big title at networking events.
  • At a street fair, ask a vendor if he’ll give you that bag for $150 instead of $200 because that’s all the cash you have. Pretend to walk away if he says no.
  • Ask for a refill at a restaurant (knowing they’ll say no). You don’t really care for that refill anyway because the point is to drive yourself to initiate the conversation. You’ll also get used to being rejected early on so that you can better craft your argument when you eventually decide to negotiate with an employer.

Try to sell someone something

Negotiating is a lot like selling something. You are marketing a product (in that case, your unique qualifications) and convincing the other party that they need to pay you for it.

Whether it be your used school books or clothes that no longer fit, challenge yourself to achieve a sale! It will teach you how to craft a winning argument and obtain what you want – which will have a direct application to negotiating with a client or an employer.

Sign up for a pitch competition

There’s nothing like a competition to practice building a solid case and defending it in front of a group of people!

I once signed up to be considered for Kevin O’leary’s sales bootcamp for fun. I hesitantly filmed and submitted a video of myself explaining what makes me a good fit for the challenge. I was surprised to find out I was selected for the second round. I was invited to come to ABC’s office in NYC and sell a 30-second elevator pitch on camera. We were literally placed in an elevator and were to say our pitch as soon as the doors opened and before they closed. To make matters worse, the whole thing would air on live TV!

I was extremely nervous and couldn’t hide that in my voice. I didn’t qualify for the third round, but it was a great exercise in articulating myself clearly in front of a lot of people.

Maybe your test doesn’t need to be as extreme as a competition to become Kevin O’Leary’s student or a one-month rejection challenge, but as often as you can, put yourself in these uncomfortable situations because you will gain a lot of self-awareness. You will experience and grow through the awkward feeling that’s been holding you back from asking for that raise.

Your turn! How do you practice your negotiation skills? Let me know in the comments!

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