Category Archives: Finances

THE ART OF NEGOTIATION How to Get What You Want

My new article on Maria Shriver’s The Women’s Conference:

One way or another we’re always negotiating—whether it’s with our boss for a raise, with our partner for rotation on cleanup duty, or with our kids about their curfew. The key is to get what you want, while keeping those around you happy.

Here are three simple ways to help get you there:

1.    Negotiating begins with YOU

Before you start the conversation with the other person, you need to be able to state the following—unequivocally:

  • Exactly what you want: It’s not enough to say, “I’d like a raise,” particularly if your boss’s follow up question is, “How much?” and you don’t know. You need to be able to state exactly what you want—and why—based on facts, not feelings. For example “I’ve added X amount of duties to my job description in the last year, therefore I’m looking for a raise of Y.” Not: “I work really hard while others aren’t pulling their weight, so I just think it’s time for me to get compensated.”
  • What you’re willing to negotiate on: Figure out beforehand the things that you are willing to give away to get the things that are not negotiable for you. Be very clear in your own mind about what you are not willing to give away.
  • Your walk-away number: This is the number below which you won’t go — because it is critical for you to decide what your skill set is worth. Remember – when negotiating a salary, the number your (potential) employer offers might just be their opening bid.  Trust me — they aren’t going to say to you, “No, now you’re supposed to counter offer.”  This principle applies to negotiations over everything from household responsibilities to managing your children’s time.

2.    Validate Others

Nobody likes the sensation of having lost financially or emotionally, so it can be helpful to incorporate the following:

  • What’s working?:  If you begin with what you like—what’s working—it’s a lot easier for people to hear what needs to be changed or improved. This helps to get everyone’s brain into a problem-solving rather than a finger-pointing space.
  • Can you tell me why you’re doing it that way?:  Asking this question leaves room for the person to offer their ideas—and possible improvements– or be (gently) reminded that you requested it be done a certain way for a reason. Studies show giving the people the “because” behind why you are making the request increases the possibility of cooperation from 60 to 94%.

3.    Stop Talking

Often, one of our strongest tactics in persuading others is silence. Most people are on our side if we give them time to be. How can you put this to use?

  • Just ask for the favor: The next time you need to ask someone to take notes for you in a meeting or to cover for you on a Saturday, just make your request, give the reason why you’re making it, and Then. Say. Nothing.  Too often, we keep rephrasing our reason, or coming up with fresh ones, leaving the person less inclined to help us out.
  • Use silence to sell: Research has shown that decision-makers need eight to ten seconds to think of the beginning of their answer to, “Are you happy with your current choice?” –and as they speak they come up with more ideas. Given this, the longer you allow someone else to think, the likelier you are to get your product or idea adopted.
  • Use silence to negotiate: Recently, one of my clients went to a nonprofit organization to apply for freelance work. He really needed the job and didn’t feel comfortable naming his usual fee for-profit rate. So he decided to reduce his number by 33%. He opened the interview with, “My usual rate is X,” but before he could get to, “but because you’re not a bank I’m prepared to blah, blah…,” his interviewer said, “That sounds fair.” His takeaway?  Name your number and then stop talking.

Try to incorporate these tools in your next negotiation, and I bet you will see some results.

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WHAT TO DO When a Friend Needs a Loan

My new article on Maria Shriver’s The Women’s Conference:

By Frances C. Jones

“Brother can you spare a dime?” was the title of one of the best-known songs of the American Depression. In these days of downsizing, foreclosures and lost investments, we’re more likely to be asked, “Can you spare $200 —or $20,000?”

Regardless of the size of the request, having an acquaintance, friend, or family member ask you for a loan can be among the most anxiety-inducing conversations you will ever have.

It’s not because the majority of us are Scrooges—we want to help if we can. The tricky bit is deciding both if we can, and this is possibly the more distressing part—and whether the person making the request is someone we feel will use our financial aid to their best advantage.

Just as it’s essentially impossible to speculate about what goes on inside a marriage, it’s essentially impossible to speculate about the conditions surrounding others’ financial situations.  In both cases, there are likely to be any number of mitigating circumstances.

So, what to do?

The first thing I recommend is to establish the facts about the situation in question—both theirs and your own. As you ask questions about their circumstances, it’s vital to be clear that it’s not because you want to pass judgment, but because you need to have an understanding of the complexity of the situation before you commit. NOTE: In my experience, if you find yourself wanting to pass judgment, don’t make the loan. If you feel information is being withheld, this should also serve as a red flag.

Continue probing, but gently—people in need of a loan often feel an enormous amount of shame. Their unwillingness to tell you everything immediately likely has more to do with that than with a desire to keep you in the dark. Additionally—depending on the severity of their circumstances—they may be in survival mode, making it difficult for them to answer the questions, or attempt to plan, in a way that makes your heart sing. If they didn’t approach you in a way that was professional, considerate and thoughtful — that’s a factor. A more important consideration, however, is how they took your request for more information/time. Once your reasons were explained, were they respectful of your thinking? If not this, again, may be reason enough not to get involved in making the loan.

Having established the facts, it’s now time to ask yourself some fact and feelings-based questions. So, let’s start with the fact-based questions.

  1. How am I situated financially right now? Do I have three months of living expenses in the bank?
  2. Am I in possession of all the facts integral to my understanding of their situation as it relates to this loan?
  3. Do I have an expectation of being repaid? If so, have I stated those expectations clearly, and put them in writing? What if the loan is never repaid?

You now need to address the feelings-based questions because it’s unlikely you will be opinion-free about those things you think are important to spend money on. For example, it can be very difficult to approve money for a loan if you disagree about the importance of their kid getting a private school education, or think they should overcome their distaste for mass transit, or are baffled by their commitment to feeding their dog organic food. With this in mind, ask yourself the following:

  1. What are my potential triggers once they have my money in-hand? Do I have opinions about how I think the money should be spent?
  2. Am I willing to forfeit my opinions?
  3. If I am not able to commit to a condition-free loan, is it possible for me to give assistance for a specific financial goal or situation?

ls asking them or yourself these questions likely to be fun or comfortable? No. Doing so will, however, give you the language to state the reasoning behind whether you are the appropriate person for them to appeal to. And the fact that you were willing to take an unflinching look at what you might be bringing to the situation is likely to make it easier for you to present your reasoning with equanimity and for them to accept your decision with grace.

Frances Cole Jones is the founder of Cole Media Management and the author of How to Wow: Proven Strategies for Selling Your (Brilliant) Self in any Situation, and of the new The Wow Factor: The 33 Things You Must (and Must Not) Do to Guarantee Your Edge in Today’s Business World.