Sept 2021 Issue | Negotiating Isn’t Greedy, It’s A Form of Self-Care
By Jules Costa
Movies often portray negotiation as a cutthroat event. Two businesspeople meet in a corner office and engage in verbal battle until they either walk away or seal the deal with a firm handshake. In real life, it’s much more nuanced than that.
Negotiation happens every day. When you ask your coworker to cover your shift and promise to take two of theirs in return, that’s negotiation. When it’s your significant other’s turn to choose the movie, but there’s a new release that you really want to see, that’s negotiation. When your toddler is screaming at the top of their lungs and you will do absolutely anything just to have one second of peace…that’s a high-stakes negotiation, right there.
We have to negotiate in order to survive. Humans are social creatures and we need each other. At the same time, disagreements arise and goals diverge. Negotiation is a skill we developed to make life a little more bearable. It’s a tool in our mental toolkit that helps us achieve more together and stay sane while we do it.
So why do we see negotiation as greedy when it comes to money?
Why negotiation skills matter
Our hesitancy around negotiating compensation stems from the idea that it’s an act of arrogance. I was telling my friend to raise her freelance rates the other day and she asked me why. “Only jerks ask for more,” she told me.
Her response makes sense when money is used selfishly. If the only goal is to accumulate it — like Hungry Hungry Hippos reaching for dollars — then sure, asking for more might be an ego trip. But that’s not the only way money can be used.
Money, in an abstract sense, is symbolic of time and energy. Instead of planting a tomato seed and waiting for it to grow, most of us just walk into a grocery store and buy one ready-to-eat. Someone else has done that labor for us.
Because it’s symbolic of time and energy, money can also be a form of care. When used intentionally, money enables us to not only take care of ourselves but also take care of others.
Throughout my career, raising my rates has allowed me to donate more time and money to causes I care about. It’s allowed me to hire other freelancers and help get their foot in the door. And, of course, it’s given me the resources to take care of myself, so that I can continue taking care of others.
Overall, I feel more connected to my work and my community because I have a surplus. When I find myself in a position to negotiate my rates, I do it. If not for myself, then for the people who rely on me.
At the end of the day, successful negotiations take all parties into consideration. When your coworker takes on your shift or your partner agrees to your movie or your toddler decides to chill out, they do it because what you’re providing in return is valuable to them. The same goes for compensation.
Here are 5 steps that will set you up for a successful negotiation:
Determine what the other person wants. What are their goals?
Figure out how you can support their wants. What can you offer?
Do your research. How are other people being compensated for similar work?
Establish your boundaries beforehand. What are your hard “nos”? What are you flexible on? What is the minimum that you can accept and still feel satisfied?
Determine where your wants and their wants overlap and build out from there.
Ultimately, any employer wants happy and productive team members. If money doesn’t motivate you or if the budget simply isn’t there, you can negotiate other items like flexible work hours, increased involvement in projects you’re interested in, or a better title.
Remember: the more you advocate and negotiate for yourself, the more time and energy you will have to devote to others.