How to negotiate in an unequal environment

Damali Peterman’s new book outlines how to negotiate when the negotiating table is not level.

Woman wearing a business jacket looking serious and crossing her arms

 

Do you struggle with things like pay negotiations and the like? Do the usual tips and advice not really help? That could be because they fail to take into account that the negotiating table is not level and that people come to it already at a disadvantage.

That’s the thesis of a new book, Be who you are to get what you want: Negotiating to win, whoever you are by Damali Peterman.

Peterman is a lawyer and mediator so knows a fair amount about negotiating. She says one-size-fits-all advice about negotiating often fails. “Negotiation advice has to reflect the multicultural society that we live in and suggest nuanced techniques that are applicable to everyone, especially those of us who were overlooked in prior negotiation books.”

Her book is “for everyone and anyone who has been underestimated at the negotiating table, and for those who have tried the ‘traditional pathways in bargaining and haven’t found consistent success.”

It covers the many daily negotiations we all have to make and issues from researching your counterpart, understanding where they are coming from and knowing when to share information and when not to to how to negotiate when either implicit or explicit bias is present and how to recover when offence is taken.

How to negotiate

Peterman starts with the basics of negotiation and with some confidence-building. We all negotiate every day, use all sorts of techniques and we’re probably better at it than we think. The basics include knowing what you want as well as what you need, knowing how to actively listen and communicate as well as knowing when to close.

In addition, she says it is important to be personable and concise, but to use techniques that encourage the person you are negotiating with to reveal more information. Telling your story in a way that shows how you stand out and what you stand for in relation to what you are negotiating is also key. Authenticity matters, she says, and that means building on your strengths and, where possible, turning what you might view as negatives – for instance, your age or race – into a positive because that’s what makes you different.

Dealing with bias

The section on bias includes a whole raft of suggestions from how to calm a conversation [and your own reaction to it] and regain control to how to disarm the person you are negotiating with by seeking a collaborative solution, for instance, by saying ‘help me to understand where you’re coming from’. Peterman advises taking a step back when you feel triggered, acknowledging your own emotions and where they come from, understanding your triggers and getting support.

Her aim is to provide tools for everyday negotiations for everyone and to acknowledge that negotiation is not the same for everyone and may require customised tools. For Peterman, a Black female lawyer, implicit bias is ‘far more scary’ than its explicit form because the person who holds it is unaware of it and its impact. And yet it is very common. She closes: “However you identify and reflect your intersectionality, you are a negotiator and you will negotiate every day in some form or fashion. I want you to be confident. Show them who you are.”

*Be who you are to get what you want: Negotiating to win, whoever you are by Damali Peterman is published by Bonner Books. 



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