A New Model for Negotiating – Designed With Women In Mind

This Tiara Applied Leadership Blog was generated in collaboration between Khotan Shahbazi-Harmon, Founder & CEO of Conscious Leadership Alliance; Peg Rowe, Global Leader, Tiara International; and Elizabeth Ruske, Tiara International


At Tiara International, we work with smart, creative, effective, powerful, passionate women around the world who are executives, entrepreneurs, artists, business leaders, writers, doctors, lawyers, parents, board members, and more. These women continually impress us with their confidence, problem solving, and tenacity.   

We wanted to have a special session on negotiations for women and have invited Khotan Shahbazi-Harmon, the Founder and CEO of Conscious Leadership Alliance, to be our guest co-author for this special blog on women and negotiation.  Khotan is also joining us for the upcoming Tiara Facebook Live broadcast on this same topic on Friday, April 19 at 12:00 noon Central Time.

Negotiation is a scary word.  At least, that is what we are hearing from most of the women we serve.  When we ask our clients if they are good at negotiating, many of them will tense up, shake their heads vigorously “no”, and back away as if to avoid something exceedingly unpleasant and distasteful. We will hear women say, “I work hard. I know I’ll be rewarded in my performance review,” or “I don’t want to be pushy, put someone out, or take away from what someone else deserves.”  We get it!

In a world where we are still a long way from achieving gender parity in the workplace, negotiation is a powerful tool that any woman can cultivate and master to navigate her work life more effectively and successfully.  

What is negotiating?

Negotiation is a process by which anyone can arrive at an agreement with another party or parties.  We are negotiating all day long, every day.  You negotiate with your child to eat their breakfast and get their stuff and get out the door; you negotiate with other drives in traffic trying not to lose your cool and find the fastest way to where you are going; you negotiate at work what projects to get and what meetings to attend; you negotiate with your spouse what nights you have off from watching the kids, or whether or not you attend a family reunion.   You also negotiate that big contract at work with a vendor, the big promotion with your boss.  You get the picture.  

Any time you are solving a problem, asking for something, compromising with another person, or adjusting an agreement you are negotiating. You negotiate with colleagues, coworkers, friends, family, and significant others. You negotiate at the coffee shop, when buying a car, when delegating a task, or agreeing to a volunteer role. 

It’s part of our daily existence. It is something that you get better at with practice, and it will become second nature. In fact, women are typically quite good at negotiating – but here is the catch: women are good at negotiation when they are negotiating for someone else. We women are the first ones to stand up for our children, our friends, our parents, our neighbors and advocated and fight for a solution. Yet when it comes to negotiating for ourselves, we tend to get uncertain, hesitate, or become uncomfortable.  It’s normal. Let’s walk through some strategies and see what might help!

Why the resistance? 

There are several reasons why someone may resist negotiating, and we recommend you articulate your resistance if you desire a breakthrough in this area. As with anything you want to change, first you need to name it and identify the challenge you are facing fully, then apply the solution.  We know that when we bring awareness to something that’s stuck, that’s often a pivotal step in change. 

To get you started, let’s review some of the comments we have heard from our clients about negotiating:

  • I don’t want to be a bother.

  • I want to avoid conflict. 

  • I’m worried about what they might think of us or say to others afterward.

  • I want to avoid being labeled negatively. 

  • I think I’m not good at it.

  • I don’t feel prepared.  

  • I don’t want to be selfish.

  • I don’t want to be “one of those people.”

  • I don’t know how to do it. 

  • Someone else will do it. 

 Overall, the word “negotiating” feels manipulative to some people, with the assumption that at the end of a negotiation someone has to win, someone will have to lose, and someone will feel taken advantage of in the process. 

Negotiation is a skill that can be taught and through practice developed. However, to be able to use this tool effectively, we need to realize that it’s really an ongoing process of dialogue and a state of being. 

What’s a new framework? 

The irony is that when we avoid negotiating, we often build up resentments and other issues that will negatively impact our credibility more than addressing the problems directly. The illusion is that negotiating results in win/lose agreements that leave someone feeling hurt or bullied. 

Yet because of the baggage from the word, you may want to reframe “negotiating” as “problem solving.”  Remember:  there is a problem that needs to be solved, and you need to address it to resolve it.  It’s that simple. When we approach negotiations as opportunities to solve problems for ourselves and others, we find it easier to engage fully and creatively in the process.  


The CLOSER Model

Once you have identified your core reason for resisting negotiating and then reframe it as problem solving, you are ready for a new model to guide you through this creative, collaborative process. We call it the CLOSER model, not so much because you “a closer” like someone solving a problem once and for all; more in the spirit of getting closer and closer to what will benefit all parties involved.  A win-win model of collaboration and problem solving. 

We are breaking down the letters of CLOSER here:

C: Connect – connect from a calm, clear place. 

 It is normal to be nervous in a situation where you need to ask for something or address a problem head on. Yet you don’t want your anxiety running the show. It’s important to manage the stress proactively so you can enter the conversation from a calm, centered place. At least as calm as possible! 

Here are a few strategies that we’ve found to be helpful to create a sense of calm and focus: 

Presence Practice. This fundamental practice comes to us from Nilima Bhat and Shakti Leadership. Simply listening to this recording or stating these principles to yourself each day relaxes you and allows you to be present: https://youtu.be/rC0LNVPrvMs. In a negotiation, it is important to breathe, and get your emotions under control.  Before you go in the room to negotiate, find your breath, raise your hands above your head and breathe in for 4 counts and fill your lungs with oxygen, and breathe out for 4 counts.  Get the blood going and stay with your breath. After a few full breaths, smile and stay steady and calm.  Remember to say to yourself with each breath: I have nothing to prove. I have nothing to defend. I have nothing to fear.

Preparation. You may also find calm in doing some factual preparation. Prepare for the meeting by answering some simple questions to know what is to come: Who are you meeting with? What will their questions be? What data do you have to support your request? What information can you share to motivate others to problem solve with you?  Prepare your materials in an organized, logical manner in notebook or folder and take it with you to the meeting and keep it to refer to it, as you need it.  You may not refer to it, but it is good to have it with you, in case you need it!

Clear Vision. It also helps ground you if you take some time to be clear on your “WHY?”  Why do you want to solve this problem? What would you love to see as an outcome? Remember, as with all with acceptable outcomes, start with the ideal vision. Make sure that you are focused on what you want, not what you don’t want. If you enter a problem-solving dialogue only sharing what you don’t want, it sounds like you are whining, complaining, and hoping someone will solve your problems for you. You may want to write 3 scenarios, so you have it clear in your mind.  

The 3 scenarios would be: 

Scenario 1: What is ideal, from 1-10 this would be your 10, the best that could possibly happen!  

Scenario 2: What can you live with?  This would be the “5” in the 1-10 scale of desired outcomes. Not great, but helps you solve the problem the best way possible with the current resources, limitations, needs, and gets the job done, for now!  

And scenario 3: would be the “2” on your 1-10 scale, what isn’t desirable, but still keeps the door open for more problem solving and negotiations.  Remember:  No doesn’t mean no.  No means, not now, not this way, not the way you are asking me, not the way you don’t get me and my needs and my problems.   If you get a “no” go back to your planning and be sure that you better understand the other person’s needs and the problems they are facing, and how your solution will help BOTH of you.  Then try, again!  Get to win-win.  Both of you can be happy with the results. 


L: Listen – Listen deeply

 Listening is one of the most important tools that you have in any negotiation.  You don’t know what problem to solve, if you can’t or won’t listen deeply.  If you listen to respond, you’ve already lost the negotiation.  Listen deeply to understand.  Listen deeply to “see” the problems and the solutions.  Hear the other person’s point of view, you are understanding their motivations and intentions, and you can feed back to them what their concerns are, so they feel heard. 

 To listen deeply, run what you are hearing through your many filters:  listen with your mind and ask yourself “does this make sense?”  Listen with your spirit and ask yourself “is what I am hearing align with my values?” Listen with your heart and ask yourself “how do I feel about what I am hearing?  What can my heart tell me that my mind can’t?” Listen with your physical body “how does this interaction make me feel?  Does it feel good in my body?”  

O: Open – Open your heart and your mind. 

Throughout the dialogue, breathe deeply and remind yourself to stay open, both in your heart and in your mind. Opening your heart will help you feel compassion for all parties involved. You will be able to connect across multiple agendas. Opening your mind will allow for new ideas to emerge that you wouldn’t otherwise see. Be willing to let go of any attachments, brainstorm, challenge, and ideate until the win-win emerges and comes forth. 

S: Share - Share possibilities.

Once the problem is on the table, all points of view have been heard deeply, and you’ve connected with an open heart and open mind, now is the time to brainstorm ideas and generate possibilities. During this phase, use the improv technique of “yes, and …” to keep building on the ideas. 


E: Embrace – Embrace what is emerging 

Stay present and energetically tuned into the conversation and everyone involved. Keep engaged with listening, opening, and brainstorming until you feel that energetic surge that you’ve come up with an idea that is mutually beneficial, meets the majority of needs in the room, and leaves everyone feeling whole in the process. You’ll know it when you “see” or “feel” it! 


R: Request - Request, promise, and agree with power. 

Once the winning idea is on the table, ground it with any powerful requests, promises, or agreements needed to make it real. A request is when you ask someone, “Will you do x by y?” After making a request, be silent and allow time for others to say yes, no, or counter propose. A promise is saying yes to something you plan to follow through on with integrity. The result of a request and a promise is an agreement. 

Make sure this last step is firmly in place, and tie up all loose ends around the request, promise and agreements before you leave the meeting.  That may seem simplistic or mechanical, yet this is often the loose end that is never tied, which might lead to no action or no completion. Making a clear request with minimal fuss, drama, and contradictory language is one of the simplest yet most effective negotiation techniques we know.  

Negotiation is a powerful tool for any woman to harness and develop through practice.  Find opportunities to put these strategies and steps in to practice and you will see your power to negotiate win-win solutions flourish.  

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