Anatomy of … a Negotiation: Getting to Yes

Whether you want a higher salary, more vacation time, or better benefits, “everything is negotiable,” says Heather Mills, founder of Women Who Ask, a company that teaches women how to negotiate.Here’s how to improve your chances of getting what you want.

Do your research

Look online at salary sites such as and, then dig a little deeper. “Talk to people at the organization and find out what other people in your situation have negotiated for,” suggests Mills. Once you know that, you have a better idea of what’s possible.

Think of multiple things to ask for

“Come up with at least five things that are important to you,” says Mills. These might include a pay raise, additional vacation time, and the ability to telecommute. That way, if you can’t get the number one thing on your list, you can push for something else you find valuable.

Prepare for the most difficult question
Think about what you don’t want to be asked during the negotiation, and then come up with an answer, advises the interdisciplinary Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School. You’ll feel more confident if you have a narrative to explain your weaknesses or prepare an argument for why you deserve a raise right now.

Do a test run

Get comfortable with making your case by doing a couple of practice sessions negotiating outside the workplace, writes Olivia Jaras in Know Your Worth, Get Your Worth: Salary Negotiation for Women. Ask a retailer for a lower price or ask your credit card issuer to lower your rate. Notice what works and what doesn’t in the interactions.

Move beyond the “no”
Many people give up if the person they’re negotiating with says no, but this is just the beginning, Mills says. Now is the time to start discussing your other negotiables. You can also flip the focus by asking what needs to happen for you to get the things you want.

Be open to creative ideas
Hear your employer out when it comes to ways that you can be compensated. If the salary you want is off the table, suggest that your employer pay for valuable training. Perhaps you can be sent to a conference where you can make connections that might catapult your career. “If you’re flexible, your employer might be able to come up with creative ways to get you what you need,” Mills says.

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