Let’s start by re-defining negotiation. Negotiating is simply having a conversation with someone about what will work for you. And learning how to “counter” is one way to keep a conversation going with someone. Traditionally, women have either accepted what someone offered, or walked away if they didn’t like an offer. Negotiating, or simply talking about an offer, is the “third way.”
Usually, this technique comes up in salary negotiations, but you can use it in many situations. Countering simply means that when someone offers you something, you respond with what would work better for you. Important: when someone offers you something, don’t simply say “okay.” You don’t have to accept what someone throws out there! When you counter, you keep the conversation going, and thus the possibilities. Check out these examples:
If someone offers you $50,000, for example, respond with: “$50,000? Well, it seems to me that because of the amount of experience this position requires, $55,000 would be more appropriate. How would you feel about that?”
Receiving a raise
You are talking to your boss about a raise. You are currently making $16 per hour and she offers you $17. Try: “Well, that’s in the ball park. However, I was thinking $19–20 per hour, given my increased level of responsibility.”
Being offered a contract
They say, “Good news! We are going to pay you $700 per day.” You respond with: “Well, I’m certainly pleased you are offering me this contract. However, given the level of skill that this will require, it feels like $850 per day would be fitting. How would you feel about that?”
Being offered a financial amount that is WAY too low
If the amount of money you are being offered for something is simply too low, rather than walk away, respond with, “Well, that is an interesting number. Can I ask how you arrived at that?”
They want you to volunteer your time
This goes back to “practicing the pause.” A great counter is simply to say, “Let me think about this and get back to you.” By not responding right away, you are giving yourself time to think about what would work for you.
Remember that countering is simply one way to keep engaging with someone. In the course of the conversation, you are looking for what would work for both parties. It’s important to know what you want before the conversation, though. Knowing your bottom line will help you resist settling for less than you deserve.