Preparing for salary negotiation, part 3: practicing for the negotiation

April 15, 2014

Over the last few years, I've realized that practicing a lot is paradoxically what I need to sound less rehearsed. Not sure where I first read this, but I saw something a few weeks ago that said that when you're under stress of any kind and your emotions are heightened, things that you know really well become easier and things that you don't know well become harder, so that you're pushed in opposite directions due to that stress. That seems true to me for public speaking and salary negotiation both.

It's helpful to actually practice saying these things out loud to someone because with practice, the words will feel less awkward in your mouth. Even if you don't want to practice to another person (though you should, because all your friends will be more encouraging to you than the hiring manager or recruiter, right?), you should still say them out loud, maybe to yourself in the bathroom mirror. This is what I do for practicing talks and it's always eye-opening to watch myself be all fidgety and motivates me to stop that.

I like to think about the different paths the conversation can go, with both best and worst case scenarios, just to map it out a bit in my head. You can plan out and group out the different things you want to ask for based on your read of how the conversation is going.

For example, if there’s utter shock when you state what you want for your salary, you could use phrasing like,
Can you tell me more about the average range for __[role]__ at your company is?
It’s better to ask for a range rather than the exact average, I think, so you can get a sense of the deviations from the average. Also, you’re setting yourself up for this:

Alice being awesome aside, I thought the best piece of advice from Lean In was that because of the penalty women can face more than men when they’re seen as “selfish”, you should try to phrase your requests in how you’re asking on behalf of the team, or how you want to set an example for the rest of the women to follow, like
We talked a lot at Hackbright about how a pay gap is introduced when women don’t ask to negotiate their salary, and so we all promised we would ask.
This isn’t to give them an easy out by saying how your goal is just to ask, so don’t say “we would at least ask,” but just phrase it so you can minimize any burden you might take on yourself for having asked.

Remind yourself that it's ok to take pauses and just let the awkward silence sit. It is not in fact your job to fill it in order to reduce the tension!! It's really hard to resist this urge if you're a woman, we've been socialized for a very, very long time to always be keeping an eye out for other people's comfort--which isn't a bad thing, we should socialize boys to do this more too, I think, but it's not always your job to do that.

Practice slowing down--this is the one that I always, always have to remind myself. Literally I will write "SLOW DOWN" on a Post-It note and stick it right at eye level or at the top of my notes. You may also want to consider using the deeper end of your voice range and keeping an eye on any tendencies you might have for upspeech, where your tone goes up at the end of sentences and makes it sounds like everything you're saying is a question and therefore sounds uncertain. This can vary a bit depending on what your voice is like normally, though, so just in general, do whatever you need to in order to sound like yourself but the serious and confident version.

Lastly, if you’ve gotten actual, real feedback in the past to be more assertive, use it! Like, “hey, I know one piece of feedback you had for me in the past was to speak up." So that again, even if you don’t get what you asked for, you can deflect aspersions on your selflessness and also show that you listen to feedback that you get.

Next up, the final post I have planned for things to do right before and during the negotiation itself.

Update: here's the full series of posts
  1. Salary negotiation after Hackbright
  2. Preparing for salary negotiation, part 1: general perspectives to consider
  3. Preparing for salary negotiation, part 2: what to even ask for
  4. Preparing for salary negotiation, part 3: practicing for the negotiation
  5. Salary negotiation: the day of