Powerful Speaking for Powerful Women

Tricia Karp

I love this scene in the movie Arbitrage.  It makes me think about the way men play the negotiating game like a grand final footy match, and about how most women would rather poke themselves in the eye with a burnt stick than join in.

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What the scene doesn’t show is Richard Gere’s character turning around after the deal is done and asking: What would you have paid?

600, the buyer says.  He asks Gere: What would you have taken?

475, says Gere.

Well that’s a good deal then, says the guy.

Gere turns to walk away, again, for the final time.  Then he comes back and says: I would have sold it for 400. Smiling wryly, he briskly leaves.  He had to have the last word.  He had to be the winner.

A client recently shared the story of telling her boss at the beginning of her performance review: Don’t worry, I don’t want a pay rise.

She’s an incredibly intelligent, dynamic and enthusiastic woman.  She’s great at what she does, and on a mission to make a mark in her industry.  She has a strong presence, and is usually quite forthright.

When she shared her story with me, I watched her shrink.  Sitting in her chair, her shoulders hunched, she looked down, and then held up both of her hands in front of her chest, palms facing out, as if to push away any notion of asking for what she wanted.

She might as well have said: I’m fine, thanks.  It’s all ok.  Just tell me I’ve done a good job and be happy with me because I don’t want to be a nuisance or cause any trouble.  

Don’t worry, I don’t want a pay rise.

Here’s the thing: You get where you want to go by asking.  And then you have to negotiate.  It’s an essential skill.  Being technically great at your job and having a strong network aren’t enough.

Recent research shows that a woman stands to lose more than $1,000,000 in her lifetime by not negotiating during salary discussions.  Yes, one-million bucks.

Let’s put the money aside though.  Because it’s not just about money.  It never is.

Negotiating is about having a voice.  It’s about  backing yourself.  It’s about opening the door to possibilities you haven’t yet imagined. It’s about owning your power to create a better situation for yourself and others. And best of all, it’s about loving yourself sick.

And here’s why it’s great for your boss too, and anyone else with whom you have a negotiating conversation.

When you ask for what you want, you give others the chance to meet your needs.  You’re making it known where you want to go and how serious you are about it.  You’re being direct and honest.  You’re showing your investment in the company.  And bosses like that.  A lot.

Here’s how my client could have started the conversation: Don’t worry, I do want a pay rise… 

2 Responses

  1. Great post Tricia! I sooo get where your client was coming from. I too have failed, often, to ask for a pay rise. A lack of courage? Some misaligned loyalty? Either way screwed thinking. Reading your post I see how damaging that was and how I set that up. For me and my boss. Getting all resentful and feeling under appreciated I resigned. And, of course on doing so was offered more money! Too late I’d already checked out.

    With my own business I also struggled to ask for what I want by way of fees and terms. Your wisdom and call for courage Tricia has helped me stand strong. I will continue soaking you and your wise counsel up. Big time!

    1. Thank you Kate, for your words and sharing your wisdom here. When someone resigns, and the extra money is offered (and it’s too late), it’s often the first time a boss will even know there’s been a problem. That lack of communication along the way doesn’t serve anyone. We have to speak. We have to ask. We have to have the conversations. It’s a typical case of communication never having taken place. Keep on with the ask, lovely you.