How to Negotiate Like a Wall Street Pro [or a Psychotherapist]

In order to effectively negotiate, you have to remain dispassionate about the outcome. The challenge is money can be an emotional thing that triggers all types of feelings that interfere with the outcome of your negotiation.   

Throughout my career, I have read countless articles offering tips and guidance on how to successfully negotiate. While most of what I’ve read offers pragmatic strategies, none of the advice seems to consider the human condition, hence the title of today’s post. Furthermore these articles almost never take a person’s skills level into consideration and assumes that all the steps of a “How to” can be easily followed. But not only are these two aspects relevant to negotiation, they are also the two primary reasons why most people are uncomfortable with negotiating.  

Self-Esteem is Essential for Negotiating

Whether you realize it or not, self-esteem plays a role in a negotiation. A low self-image makes it difficult for a person to ask for what they want because deep inside they don’t believe they are deserving of more or better. 

Your Relationship With Money and Negotiation

A person’s relationship with money also comes into play. If you grew up in a household where the topic of money was discussed in a negative way you may not have learned to develop a healthy relationship with money. You may even feel a sense of shame or guilt around the subject. Either way, this will make asking for a raise quite challenging.

Most of us don’t necessarily realize it but the financial personalities we have developed as adults stem from our childhood perceptions of money. I would even go so far as to say that much of the financial predicaments we find ourselves in as adults are based on the manifestation of these childhood beliefs. 

Before negotiating, it is important to assess your relationship with money and see what emotional triggers ignite.

Important Questions to Ask About Money

Think about how money was viewed in your family. How did your parents discuss financial topics with each other? Was it a source of many arguments or a source of shame? Was there plenty or was there always a shortage? And how did your family treat people of varying financial echelons? Was there a disdain for the rich or the poor, secretly sneering at them behind their backs? All of these memories are important to revisit because they have developed your money personality and money outlook.

How Limiting Beliefs May Hold You Back

Your underlying perception of money may be creating limiting beliefs that are holding you back from greater financial success. If that is the case, it is likely holding you back in your negotiations. Your feelings of insecurity may even be projecting a subtle vibe that could give a skilled negotiator the upper hand.

Practice the Skill of Negotiation

Once you have a handle on your view and have worked through any unreconciled money issues there is still one thing left to do before returning to the negotiating table and that is practice. Most people naively think they can walk into their boss’s office and successfully negotiate the raise and bonus they desire. I think that is unlikely unless the stars and moon have aligned in your favor.

Truth be told, negotiating is a skill just like any other that is improved with practice. Because we live in a commercial world, opportunities to negotiate exist all around us. Using those opportunities to practice is a great low risk to hone your skills. I, myself, negotiate everything, including my dry cleaning bill when I felt it a bit frothy for the job that was done. I’ve also negotiated the price on a green juice when my local juice bar ran out of spinach and tried to double down on kale on the sly. I observed as this was unfolding before my very eyes and frankly but politely told the clerk that you “don’t get to charge me $12 for a green juice unless it is the best juice in NYC, and I doubt that it was since you don’t even have all the ingredients you’re advertising.” I offered them $6 and they acquiesced. They have since gone out of business.

It is important to set a standard for commerce, and that includes the value of your own services. Keep in mind the conversation doesn’t have to be contentious if you are reasonable, fair and emotionally dispassionate. Don’t bring your personal baggage into the discussion because it will never serve you well.