Best of Negotiation Advice 2014


Space to breathe, by the talented Melissa Maples.

As the year draws to a close, things are getting more hectic. Deadlines loom. The pressure grows. Shopping lists and to-do lists grow, the days shorter.

Earlier this evening, I walked behind a petite woman holding four shopping bags, clomping down on NYC street as she talked on the phone. She said, “yeah, so now I just need to go pick up another gift, go home, shower, change, write a few emails, then head out again.”

Stressed out.
Sound familiar?

A friend wrote me today she’s doing all she can to stay calm and productive so she doesn’t have a meltdown.

I hit reply: DITTO!!

During times like these, it’s easy to lose focus of the big picture, hard to find space to breathe and NOT lose patience (okay, so I’m mainly talking about myself here).

This requires your negotiation jiujitsu.

Say no to that party invite, the one you’re mostly meh about, but hesitant to turn down because you don’t want to upset anyone or afraid of what they’ll think of you. Say no to a needlessly materialistic and equally onerous holiday chore. Everyone will survive without one more ugly Christmas sweater, one more silly trinket on the tree, one more sugar-laden treat in the god-forsaken name of the holidays.

Sometimes the best thing is for you to be selfish. Be selfish about your time and space, so you can stay healthy. Your physical, mental, emotional health comes first before obliging to things that don’t give you joy and peace.

When you have joy and peace, the world will have joy and peace. Have faith in this.

Tonight I’m home instead of eating steak at a restaurant to do something I’ve been wanting to do all year: a compilation of some of the best negotiation advice I’ve read online in 2014.

The Power of Ask by James Altucher

When the Hare Krishnas asked for money, they would get nothing but NOs.

But when they gave a little flower first, they got billions.

Once you give something in advance, the brain naturally wants to give back and show that it is a good member of the herd.

But here’s the trick: if you ask immediately, then I personally think it’s a little too slimy. Like the Hare Krishna trick.

The key is to do a “Give” and then forget about it. And then a month, a year, a decade later, come back with the “Ask”.

A Give creates potential energy in the future. An Ask turns the Potential energy into Kinetic energy.

I hope I’m getting that physics analogy right.

Create as much potential energy as possible every day with many Gives. Store up your Asks for when you need them. Read more here

Dealing with Difficult People? Get Your Foot in the Door (or How Amy Poehler got her way with George Clooney) by Program on Negotiation at Harvard

“I knew from my years of working both sides of being on camera and behind the camera that it was better to ask George Clooney’s people, ‘Would you mind if Amy sat next to George when her name was announced?’ And of course”—because the request was innocuous—“they would say ‘No,’” that they didn’t mind. “It’s just too much to be like, ‘Can she sit on his lap?’” Poehler said.

Having secured permission from Clooney’s people to pull up a chair, Poehler said she approached his table at the appointed time and asked him point-blank if she could sit on his lap. “And he was like, sure,” she said, laughing. Though Poehler didn’t win the award (or a kiss), the moment got a big laugh.

Poehler’s anecdotes demonstrate not only the role of chutzpah in comedy, but also the value of preceding large requests with small ones in negotiation. Why is the foot-in-the-door technique so successful? Because human beings have an innate motivation to appear consistent, according to Cialdini. The desire to behave consistently—rather than erratically—is so powerful that, research shows, it even drives us to do things that fall outside our comfort zone. Read more here

You’ll Never Get Paid What You’re Worth (And That’s OK) by Terri Trespicio

“My clients always ask me, ‘Why can’t I convince people to pay me what I’m worth?’” says Benun. “This is the wrong question, because it sets this up as a pricing problem, which it isn’t. It’s a marketing problem, and it has a marketing solution.”

The key, says Benun is to separate what you do for other people from what it means about you. In other words, take your ego out of it. This blew my mind, and the doors off everything I used to think about rates and salary.

It was also a huge relief because I’ve spent too much time worrying that either I wasn’t worth much, or I was so good no one could afford me. “The conflation of personal worth with professional acumen is also very childish,” adds Benun. The “love me daddy” approach to winning business infantilizes you — it treats the proposal (or salary or raise) like an allowance, one that you “deserve” because you were a good girl. Ick. Read more here

What if the Gender Studies are Wrong? by Victoria Pynchon of She Negotiates

The proposition that men negotiate far more than women do has also been challenged by research that controls for differences in goals or status in addition to gender. One study using law students as social science lab rats found no negotiation performance differences based on gender. Being a law student, it seems, eliminates a woman’s purported hesitancy to negotiate. Could it be that other studies also failed to control for status? That fewer women negotiated because fewer than 20% of all leadership positions in the U.S. are filled by women? Because women, by and large, have lower status jobs than most men do?

… these academic “findings” about the differences in the genders are destined to become self-fulfilling prophesies just as “girls are bad at math” once did.
Read more here

So there you have it:
– Negotiation insights from Hare Krishnas and Amy Poehler,
– on the pitfalls of “good girl” / “love me daddy” mindset for negotiation, and
– thinking twice about oft-quoted gender studies that depress us women and not really help us achieve negotiation prowess.

My wish is that these insights serve and help you achieve negotiation prowess in 2015.

One more before I go — I’m an agnostic who selectively believes in superstition only when it pleases me. (Are you rolling your eyes yet? Bear with me for a hot second here.) Numerology, for instance. The individual numbers in 2015 adds up to 8 (2 + 0 + 1 + 5).

According to, year number 8 signifies “achievement, your year to make great strides in business, employment, promotions, monetary compensation, and/or the accumulation of possessions. It is your harvest time.”

I wish you great harvest in 2015.

DailyWorth covers Hands-On Negotiation Workshop


Love this recap article by Koa Beck, Senior Editor at DailyWorth. DailyWorth is a leading online publication focusing on women’s financial health.

When you negotiate, remember that it’s a discussion.

Jamie Lee reminded us that when negotiating anything, both parties have their objectives. While it’s imperative to prepare for negotiations, the point is not necessarily to blurt out a rehearsed script and then clam up and wait anxiously for your prize. Negotiation is about listening as much as it is about being clear on what you came for — but pivot appropriately based on the response.

Remembering that negotiating is a conversation is also helpful if you stumble into some pushback. “No” doesn’t necessarily mean no until the end of time. “No” is not a rejection of you, Jamie says. Sometimes it simply means “not right now.”

Read more on DailyWorth

How to Survive and Thrive Over the Holidays

polar bears working hard for a a mall

polar bears working hard for a buck…in a mall

The holidays are stressful, onerous, and painful for reasons your therapist(s) could take months and years to analyze and spit back to you.

It goes back to your childhood, they’ll tell you.

Your parents didn’t love you enough. Or they loved you too much.

Or they were immigrants who worked themselves to your despair. (Your therapist permits you to blame them. Let it out. Be angry.)

They happen to be decent people, once well heeled back in the motherland. They were caring, attentive parents until they decided to move, small children in tow, to America. Here, they work themselves to sickness and divorce for the American Dream. This is how they ruin Christmas for you.

First they pool their life savings to buy a dingy gift shop in the poor part of the city. Then they work thirteen-hour days, almost every day of the year. They take one day to rest, on New Year’s Day.

But Christmas Day they work the longest and hardest. They don’t come home until way past midnight.

Several years over your childhood, you spend the day home alone. Your siblings have better social skills than you, so they find friends to spend the day with. You are a loner. On Christmas, the house is cold, empty and sad.

One year at school, a substitute teacher puts on the movie Home Alone to pass the time. Watching it, you feel a little confused. How is it that this white boy can have so much fun being home alone? It deepens your sense of isolation, of being different and apart.


I fired my therapist this spring.

Every family has their own hurt. Everyone has a story.

If you feel pain, isolation and sadness over the holidays, I feel you. I mean, I get where the Grinch comes from.

Even today, the sound of canned Christmas carols in the drug store makes me wince.

Who am I to tell you how to survive and thrive over the holidays? I’m just another speck on this tiny planet orbiting around the sun, a small burning dot in the Great Big Scheme of the Universe.

I can tell you that, twenty years later, as a grown-up living in a nice, warm apartment and involved in a loving, steady relationship with a kind, responsible grown-up, I relish the holidays.

I have fun doing all the things, buying all the gifts, and eating all the sweets.

Here’s how I went from being a Grinch to feeling pretty awesome over the holidays.

Forgive your parents for what they never gave you as a child.

Here I am quoting Amy Poehler in her best selling memoir Yes Please. The quote is from a chapter titled, “Talk to Yourself Like You’re Ninety.” The book is a quick, punchy read.
If your holidays are awful, read a good book written by a funny person, like this one. Nothing heals like laughter.

Choose to not see yourself as the victim.

The brain wants us to play the victim role. It’s the easiest part in the fiction your brain creates under the guise of keeping you safe from harm. The brain is also really good at making you perceive harm where there is none.

Negotiation is a conversation to reach agreement with both parties having the right to say no. You have to negotiate with yourself too. You have the right to reject the role of victim. Say no to the brain. Stay consistent in your choice, stay vigilant. The brain likes to be in control.

Read self-help books. Read comedy books. Read books on print.

Choose to heal. Choose to laugh. Spend some time away from the monitor, reading and relaxing in bed.

Here are some other books that helped me:
The Power of No
What I Know for Sure
Confessions of a Prairie Bitch

Just do the things that you need get done. When done, relax.

Go, go, go is like ingrained in me from watching my parents work so hard. Relaxing without guilt feels unnatural and takes work for me. But I know it is vital to one’s health and sanity (and the irony is not lost on me as I bang this one out at quarter to eleven on a school night).

So now I carve out at least ten minutes every morning to sit in solitude and silence. I practice listening to the beat of my own heart and the quiet hum of every day noises. Most of the time I struggle to quiet the din of my own thoughts, the endless listing of to-do lists. I’m working on it.

Whatever it was that you were yearning to do all year, do a little of it every day.

I was born on December 31st. So December marks the last full month of me being a particular age. As of today I have twenty-seven days of being thirty-two. All throughout my thirty-second year my heart kept telling me I wanted to write. So I am trying to write a blog entry every day of December. (n.b. I may have initially been too optimistic about updating my blog here, so ratcheting down my expectations to one blog update a month.)

If coupled, wear less clothing to bed.

It’s cold out there. You know how this works. Thrive every where, especially in bed.

Photo by the talented Melissa Maples


Steal This Negotiation Role-Play Exercise for Your Own Benefit

Lining up for negotiation role play at Bullish Conference in Miami

Lining up for negotiation role play at Bullish Conference in Miami

Nothing speaks louder than action. So take some time during this season of frenzied feasting and shopping to plan and practice your big scary ask. Take action on building your negotiation prowess. Your future self will thank you.

The role-play is designed to be applicable to a wide range of situations, so you can use it regardless of whether you’re asking for a raise at work or negotiating a saner holiday plan with your loved ones.

Maybe you’re wondering, should you even bother practicing through role-play?

Totally up to you.

But does it work?

Yes, it works to calm pre-negotiation jitters, build confidence, and prepare for pushback.

Role Play Exercise for Getting Past NO

A: Make a specific and quantified ASK to Person B. i.e. “Hi, roommate. I’d like to ask you to please take out the garbage three times a week, on Monday, Wednesday and Friday nights.” Or “Hello, supervisor. I’d like to ask for a 15% increase in my salary to bring me closer to market value.”

B: Say no to A’s ask. i.e. “Sorry, I can’t commit to taking out the garbage on those nights.” Or “There’s no room in the budget for a salary increase.”

A: DO NOT SAY “OKAY”, or just accept the initial pushback and walk away. Instead, ask an open-ended, diagnostic question that starts with Who, What, How, When, Where, and Why. (Form your mouth into a ‘W’, when in doubt.) You want to diagnose and understand the root cause of NO, so you can reframe or rephrase as needed. In other words, don’t react to NO, but stay open-minded and curious. Stay focused on finding a mutually agreeable solution. So you can reply by asking, “When can you take out the garbage?” Or “What about if I showed you my plan for increasing revenues / cutting costs by 17% in the coming year?”

B: Respond to diagnostic question. “Um, well, I guess I can take out the garbage on Tuesday and Thursday mornings… ” Or “Sure, that would be great. If you bring in additional revenues for the coming year, we can certainly have a conversation about paying you a bonus on commission basis.”

A: In light of the new information, reframe your ask or offer a concession.

How the rest of the role-play unfolds is up to your imagination. ;-)

Rinse, repeat, and let me know how it went.

Quick Tips: ‘Tis the Season for ASKING

Red Disco Ball

  1. Ask your favorite merchant / etsy seller / trainer / coach for a holiday discount. Everyone’s offering steep discounts, so why shouldn’t they? I asked for a Black Friday discount from my fitness trainer and secured a sweet deal to keep me toned and energized into 2015.
  2. Ask yourself where you want to be (both metaphorically and physically) a year from now and 30 years from now. The point is to dig deep into your core values, so that you can align your big asks with what is most important to you. What would you have to achieve to say that you lived a life of no regrets? What would you need to ask for to achieve it?
  3. Write / rewrite your job description. Update your resume. Quantify your contributions and take stock of how your client / employer benefitted from your work in the past year. By the way, does your title and salary still fit your current role? If not, it might be a good time to start researching into a new title and salary that best suit your value contributions. Or a new job.
  4. Ask for goodwill in the form of donations to your favorite charity / referrals / LinkedIn recommendations. ‘Tis the season to be jolly, gregarious, and generous. So take advantage of it, for the betterment of what you love and your future potential. Have a favorite charity or crowdfunding project you’d love to see funded? Looking to improve your LinkedIn profile or grow your business? Ask and ye shall receive.
  5. Happy December!

    photo by the talented Melissa Maples

#BullCon14 Workshop Recap: Savvy Negotiation for Bigger, Bolder and Better

First day of #BullCon14, I'm checking in at the Surfcomber, and the friendly hotel staff behind the reception desk points to the Bullish banner and asks, "What's that?" So I tell him, "Oh, it's a conference for ambitious and feminist women. And that's the brand logo. The founder co-opted the male symbol of power and put a unicorn horn on it to represent feminist unicorns" And he says, "Wow, I mean...just the bull itself is frightening enough."

First day of #BullCon14, I’m checking in at the Surfcomber, and the friendly hotel staff behind the reception desk points to the Bullish banner and asks, “What’s that?” So I tell him, “Oh, it’s a conference for ambitious and feminist women. And that’s the brand logo. The founder co-opted the male symbol of power and put a unicorn horn on it to represent feminist unicorns” And he says, “Wow, I mean…just the bull itself is frightening enough.”

One of the things I’m most grateful for and proud of in 2014 was successfully negotiating a return to Bullish Conference by Jennifer Dziura. Dubbed a Powerful Summit for Ambitious Women, Bullish Conference is a glorious and busy weekend spent learning and rubbing sun-kissed elbows with an impressive assortment of astute businesswomen — or gentlewomen in Get Bullish parlance — at the vividly colorful Surfcomber Hotel in Miami.

I so loved flying to Miami to facilitate a negotiation workshop for Bullish women — or Bullicorns — in November 2013, that earlier this year I pitched to Jen a more ambitious and better structured workshop for the second annual conference. To my delight, she said yes.

Two weekends ago, I facilitated a negotiation workshop for twenty-two Bullicorns on How to Think Bigger, Speak Up, and Ask for More. After which, I joined the attendees for excellent workshops on personal and professional development. Topics covered writing a manifesto, starting a side business, using our authentic voices and on designing an ambitious and equally elegant 2015. On Sunday morning, I joined yoga on the beach.


In a word, it was awesome. And all the pretty pictures to prove it are here (by the talented Caro Griffin).

Over the past year, I worked on honing my presentation skills and role-play exercises with the goal of creating a tailored workshop that inspires negotiation confidence and teaches techniques applicable to just about any situation — whether it be in the office, with a client, business partner, a relative or friend. By the end of it, I wanted my attendees to walk away with that undeniable feeling of: I got this.

To this end, I read several books and countless articles. I trained for Strategic Conversations with She Negotiates. I took improv comedy classes at People’s Improv Theatre. I recounted embarrassing stories of my failed negotiations in front of people. I got valuable feedback on my communication skills from Toastmasters. I facilitated practice workshops. I gave and sought negotiation advice. I prepared for the Bullish Conference.

A sharp woman who knows what she wants, who reaches out of her comfort zone, who takes action in spite of fear is formidable. A woman who owns her power and speaks her mind is imposing. Scary, even. I love that the Bullish ethos embraces this woman and encourages her to go even bolder. I am proud to be her.

But to be perfectly honest, I felt intimidated by the idea of standing in front of a room of ambitious go-getters to teach negotiation. Months and weeks leading up to the conference, I battled waves of self-doubt and fear.

What could I possibly teach successful women entrepreneurs about negotiating in the workplace?
What if they asked questions I couldn’t answer?
It was the same voice that said I wasn’t good enough.

I chose not to listen to that voice. Instead I prepared. I meditated and listened to the beat of my own heart. I dug deep into my core values, and aimed for something more lasting and meaningful than negotiating to win, making money for the sake of making money, and looking good. I aimed for deeper fulfillment that comes from owning your value, human connection from listening to the other side, and peace from resolving conflict. All the things that can be achieved through negotiation.

My goal is to help women achieve better outcomes that align with their core values through negotiation success. My success is their success. It feels incredibly amazing to have achieved this goal through negotiation workshop at Bullish Conference. They got it.


Check out this beautifulhandcrafted notes from the workshop by Sarah Dale.

Here’s a great success story from BullCon attendee Olivia Henley, who runs her own accounting firm in California:

Within days of taking Jamie’s negotiation workshop, I found myself using the knowledge I acquired in her class to help my client with a difficult business partnership situation. It isn’t often that you can gain new skills that apply to such a wide range of life situations and then put them into play immediately. Jamie gave one of the most valuable workshops I’ve been to.


Below is an excerpt from a wonderful recap of the negotiation workshop by Poornima Vijayashanker, founder of Femgineer and author of How to Transform Your Ideas into Software Products. Poornima also led a fantastic workshop on how to start a side business at Bullish Conference.

One of the exercises Jamie had us do was a role play exercise. We each had to partner up; Person A would ASK Person B for something, and Person B would initially reject Person A’s offer. Then Person A would need to follow up with a question to understand the reason for the rejection with the goal of modifying their ASK. The objective was to make Person A get comfortable following up to understand the reason for rejection rather than just walking away.

When it was my turn to create an ASK, I set the context for Person B, and told them they were a CFO at a tech company. My ASK went something like this:

“Hi Person B, thanks for taking the time out of your busy schedule today to meet with me.

I’m the founder of Femgineer, an education company. For the past 2 years we’ve been running a Lean Product Development Course that has graduated 70+ students around the world.

The course is for engineers and tech entrepreneurs, and teaches them how to transform an idea into a software product. In the course, we advise all our students to use your Product X, and they’ve found it to be really beneficial in building their product.

In 2015, we’d like to offer scholarships to students who might not be able to afford our program, and I’m here to ASK if you’d be open to a providing a $50K sponsorship, which we can use to provide our students with scholarships.

In exchange for the sponsorship, we’ll highlight you as our marquee sponsor, invite you to meet with the students, and continue to highlight how your products and services will benefit our students as they build software products. I know you’ve got a great base of customers in the US, but this will bring you a lot of great exposure in international markets, and be a part of our students’ success.”

I was obviously winging this, and I probably would have come up with some hard data if I was doing a real ask. After I presented my ask Jamie turned to me and said, “What I like is that you didn’t just ASK you made and OFFER.”

What Jamie meant by that is the following: too often when we ASK for something, we phrase it in a way that is mainly meant to benefit us. The reason for the ASK may be based on something we did to benefit the other person initially, e.g. “Over the past quarter, I’ve reduced the bug count by 50%, which has made the company $100K. Clearly my work has benefited the company, and I’m now here to ASK for a $10K raise.” But this ASK is based on a benefit that the person we’re asking has already experienced. Since it’s in the past, it doesn’t give them a concrete incentive they’ll experience in the future.

While you might say there is an ongoing benefit to this ask, i.e. having an outstanding employee, it’s just too subtle, and that’s the main problem.

When we instead make an OFFER, we clearly state how the other person is going to benefit from our ASK.

Needless to say, Poornima has advanced negotiation chops, which comes with the territory when you are an experienced entrepreneur.

It was an absolute delight to coach formidable Bullicorns in mock negotiation.


From ‘Off the Sidelines’ by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand

Asking for votes and support, negotiating for bipartisan agreement in the Senate, speaking up for the victims of sexual harassment in the military, then cooking dinner at home for her toddler sons at the end of a long, hard day. New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand does it all with determined courage, near-evangelical confidence and the tenacity of…a honey badger.

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand

After reading her memoir Off the Sidelines, I’m moved and inspired by her tireless quest to be the voice for the voiceless and to fight the lost causes. She was influential in repealing ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’ the policy that banned gays from serving openly in the military, and providing health care and compensation to the 9/11 first responders and community survivors who are sick with diseases caused by the toxins at Ground Zero.

Her book and her example are a strong call to action for women to speak up, get involved, and ask for change. I feel challenged to think bigger and take bolder action. It makes me wonder, have I done enough? What more can I do? Who else can I help?

It’s like being shoved out of the mindset of complancency; it feels uncomfortable, not unlike when I have to muster the courage to negotiate.

Speaking of which, negotiating at work can be awkward even for Senator Gillibrand. Take for example, the excerpt below where she describes how she lobbied her boss, the president, at a holiday party:

In 2010, the White House Christmas party happened to be right before the vote on the 9/11 healthcare bill, an issue that pulled on my heart and sense of justice as fiercely as anything had in my life. I’d promised the first responders and their families that I’d fight for them with everything I had. So there I was, in a blue strapless gown, standing in an endless line to wish President Obama a merry Christmas…

We decided we would use the holiday face time to lobby.

For the hour Jess and I stood in line, I kept second-guessing myself, asking whether Jess thought it was rude or obnoxious to spend my thirty seconds with the president at the Christmas party to urge him to throw his weight behind ensuring that our 9/11 first responders got their due.

“Do you really think it’s okay to bring up my bill?”

“Yes, Kirsten, you should bring up the bill,” said Jess patiently, at first.

“I’ll ask him to call Senator Enzi–he’s still considering whether to support the bill.”

“Good call,” Jess said.

“Is it rude?” I asked, feeling insecure again. Lobbying here among the fancy Christmas trees was clearly off script.

“I don’t know,” Jess said.

“Let’s go for it.”


Finally I got to the front of the line, to our commander in chief in his tuxedo and Michelle Obama, impeccably dressed as always, in a red ball gown. I didn’t even leave the president an inch to say, “Merry Christmas.” I just gulped down a chestful of air and started talking a mile a minute. “Mr. President, I’m working really hard on the 9/11 healthcare bill, and I really need your help, and if you could just call Senator Enzi–”

The president broke into a bemused smile. “Kirsten…Kirsten…happy holiday.” His body language urged me to please slow down.

from Off the Sidelines

Guest Post from Talley Henning Brown: What I Learned from ‘Improv Your Way To Negotiation Prowess’

Talley Henning Brown works as Editor at Daggerwing Health. She attended Improv Your Way to Negotiation Prowess workshop and was kind to share what she learned from the experience in this excellent guest post:

Philosophies abound about how women should approach the many difficult angles of “empowerment in the workplace.” It’s 2014, so at this point, the entire female workforce has grown up in the age of “women’s studies” and every perspective that movement has birthed. What I have found in my adult life is that most of those perspectives are just a little too limited — and thus limiting.

I can’t help it, I want the sky, not just a piece of it. But the thing is, my definition of “sky” may be different than another woman’s. And that’s the first, and possibly most important, thing I have to say about Jamie’s approach to this sticky issue. She understands that there is not one single definition, not one single right answer. Every situation, like every woman, is unique. There is no exact formula.

But there are tools from which we all can benefit, tools to which we all have access, if we simply know where to find them, and how to use them. And here is where Jamie is at her best.

A refrain that Jamie repeats throughout her workshop, in various iterations, is that we all have these tools, these abilities, within us. We use them every single day, often every hour, in both our professional and our personal lives — either to good effect or ill. We just don’t realize that we’re doing it. Jamie’s expertise, and her particular gift, are in helping each woman to come to the realization, and to hone those abilities.

To get into specifics, I’ll say that 30 seconds into her first exercise, I felt like I had learned something absolutely invaluable. It was so huge, in fact, that I felt like laughing out loud. And it was the single most important lesson I came out of the workshop with, because it helped to inform every other exercise we played with that evening. Namely: that a negotiation does not have to be a David-and-Goliath–style confrontation. It doesn’t have to be one person (woman) trying to prove her worth — which should already be evident in her record — in order to wrestle something she wants (deserves) from someone who doesn’t want to give it up. It can be a mutually beneficial exchange. An opportunity for mutual growth.


Granted, there’s no script for achieving a mutually beneficial exchange. It depends on the woman, and on the other party, and on the thousand needs and desires they both may hold. But that’s what makes Jamie’s improv format so appropriate — what else do you do without a script?

But before I lead anyone into thinking that all Jamie does is play-act at negotiation scenes, I will also mention that I was more than a little impressed at the level of scientific method she has interwoven with her improv approach. She has read the studies, determined which ones truly speak to an effective, real-world approach, and then somehow found a way to put those lessons into a playful, non-threatening, even fun exercise of personal empowerment.

And that’s another thing I think is important. I said a second ago that I felt like laughing out loud. I didn’t laugh out loud, because I felt a little shy in a group of five other women I’d just met. (And so were they, it was obvious.) I could say that Jamie is very good at helping people feel at ease, but honestly, it’s more — her presence and her manner of interacting makes it hard to feel otherwise. By an hour into the workshop, the room was full of laughter and easy voices.

So, what did I learn?

  • (The first thing, which I mentioned before) Negotiation does not have to be David and Goliath. It can (and should) be an entirely different conversation. The painful, and ultimately empowering, thing is that it’s in your hands to make it a different conversation.
  • Knowing exactly what you want is essential. Specifics can only help you, not hurt you.
  • A single conversation does not have to be the end of the negotiation process.
  • A failure can set you up for a (possibly bigger and better) success in the near future.

I’ve described what I learned only in generalities. I did that on purpose, because I really think you should check out one of Jamie’s workshops for yourselves. Seriously, bring a friend! I know I’ll be going back.

Winter Ambition: Reading List for Ballsy People

Fall is here, meaning winter is just around the corner. Which kills me, every year. The cold weather and shorter days trigger a response in my body that turns me into a stiff, chronically fatigued and antisocial grouch. I hate it. Every winter I battle the impulse to give in and stay in, bundle myself in defeat and down, eat an endless supply of sweet pastries and mope like sorry old Rudolph before that fateful foggy Christmas Eve.

Winter sucks, but it doesn’t have to drain your ambition, focus and drive. We can overcome.


For the ballsy people reading this, I have some book recommendations to help you overcome your inner winter mope. I read them this summer, and they helped me lift out of anxiety and depression, become more present and grateful, and improve my negotiating skills.

The Bedwetter: Stories of Courage, Redemption, and Pee by Sarah Silverman


I read this as an ebook on my iPhone earlier this year, when I was depressed and my thoughts were lying to me. Or at least that’s how I perceived it, that my brain was playing cruel tricks to make me feel bad about myself and my life. It got so bad I called a psychologist. But it was Saturday, so no one picked up the phone to talk me out of my misery. I did the next best thing, which was to stay limply sprawled on the couch and scroll through the apps on my iPhone.

I needed to laugh and to hear a strong female voice that would not make me feel bad about myself. Lean In would not do. I craved comfort and a distraction. In this frame of mind, I was scrolling through the memoir selections on Scribd app when the title The Bedwetter caught my eye. Bingo.

Sarah Silverman exemplifies ballsy ambition. She’s had her own TV show, been naked with Louie CK and dated (and humiliated) Jimmy Kimmel. She’s courageous, bold, and vulgar in her own charming and wholehearted way. She won an Emmy in 2008 for her video I’m F***ing Matt Damon, and has been credited with helping secure Obama’s election with the The Great Schlep campaign. And before she achieved all that and had her own HBO comedy special, she grew up a small, hairy Jewish girl in New Hampshire wetting her bed almost every dreadful night and well into her teens. And her stories of pee are wrenching as they are hilarious.

Silverman also has the gall to include in the book word-for-word, email-by-email transcriptions of negotiations between her and the stodgy corporate types who try unsuccessfully to talk a mouthy comedy celebrity out of writing her own forward (rest assured, the afterword is written by God himself); casting her fat, nerdy friends as gay lovers in The Sarah Silverman Program; and working with the budget she needs to make the show and make it good. I picked up the book to get a laugh and found myself getting a good lesson in tough negotiations.

She breaks all the rules of nice, mild-mannered workplace negotiations. Her fame certainly helps, but the real source of her bargaining power is in her outrageous courage to speak her mind (no matter how dirty) and stand for her demands. Power to her: she draws confidence from overcoming her bedwetting traumas. For each negotiation, she has a clear vision of what she wants and why. She articulates it with wit, unaided by an edit button. And she gets what she wants, because her will is ironclad. She’ll either ‘die on this hill’ or walk away from the book or TV deal. She’s unflinching in the face of no.

Start with No…The Negotiating Tools that the Pros Don’t Want You to Know by Jim Camp


Which is the perfect segue to the negotiation book I have the pleasure of reading in hardcover print.

Reading the book description on Amazon might give you the impression that Camp endorses a ‘take-no-prisoners’ approach, a lá Sarah Silverman against media executives. Surely enough, in Start with No Jim Camp openly disparages mutual win negotiation. He calls it for what it is in the context of big corp negotiations: underhanded invitation for unnecessary compromise by the ‘tigers’ of Fortune 500, who are out to kill. He knows this firsthand because he coaches them in multimillion dollar deals.

If he’s good enough to coach the tigers of Fortune 500, he’s good enough for the ballsy woman looking to improve her negotiation chops. He’s an outspoken contrarian in the field of negotiation coaching. I found his book refreshing and eye-opening.

In fact, I had the pleasure and privilege of negotiating with Jim Camp on the phone last week. True to his word, at the end of our conversation, he invited me to say no. He specifically requested that I give a deadline for saying no, and it made the negotiation painless and easy for me. Starting with no really works, because it’s a proven framework for decision making.

So pick it up this winter and go deeper. More I read, more I found Camp had in common with the mutual win negotiation camp he so enjoys belittling. Both Camp and mutual win negotiation experts like She Negotiates teach you to dig deeper into the underlying interests of the other side (you can call them your negotiation partner or adversary, it doesn’t matter) by asking open-ended and nurturing questions that start with why, what, who, what, where, when and how.

Don’t take my word for it. Try it out for yourself. Next time you are at a networking event, dig deeper into the other side’s world with open-ended, diagnostic questions. It’ll make you look smarter, better engaged, and more empathetic. Invite the other side to open up and share their problems, worldview, fears, and preferences with you. Next time you are in a negotiation, go a step further and invite the other side to say no. Embrace no, because no is not a rejection of you, and because you inherently risk hearing no in every negotiation you initiate. Embrace it, and it will make you a master negotiator.

The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment by Eckart Tolle


A great negotiator enters the conversation with no assumptions or expectations. She enters the negotiation in a blank slate, fully present and open to new possibilities. Jim Camp endorses this, and in his book, he stops short of endorsing meditation.

I believe meditation makes you a better negotiator. You’ll be calmer, better focused and more present. If you want to learn how to become more present, I highly recommend Eckart Tolle’s book The Power of Now. It’s changing me from the inside out. It’s a spiritual book, free of religious dogma yet practical and applicable to daily life. Tolle teaches you that you are not the thinker, that you are not your mind, and this realization is freeing and enlightening.

I actually didn’t read the book, but instead listened to the audio book narrated by Tolle. I’m listening to it still, for the fourth time. I’ll probably give it another listen to help me cope with winter blues. To focus on Tolle’s calm and soothing voice while walking outside in New York City in fall is a meditative experience in and of itself. It’s proven more effective and cheaper than talk therapy for silencing the voices of doubt and anxiety.

Again, don’t take my word for it. Give the book a try and see if it helps. It helped me lift out of anxiety and depression. It taught me how to meditate, be more present and grateful for the abundant grace in my life. It made me a better negotiator. For the ballsy and courageous, I challenge you to be ambitious not just for material achievements, but also for spiritual and emotional fulfillment. Let this book guide you into that journey.

What if you accepted the first offer without negotiating?

How does abundance look like, for you? Photo by Melissa Maples.

What does abundance look like for you? Photo by Melissa Maples.

What if you accepted the first offer for a new job without even blinking an eye at the lower-than-market salary figure. Worse yet, what if you didn’t even know you lowballed yourself? I’ve made this costly mistake a few times early in my career.

Did you lose this negotiation by forfeit?
Does the thought of leaving money on the table piss you off?

Nobody wants to be a loser. Especially in our culture that loves to herald winning and success, negotiating can feel like a precarious walk on the fine line between failing / losing and winning / succeeding.

No wonder so many of us are reluctant and anxious to negotiate. If you want to stay safe, it’s tempting to not take action and don’t assume any risks. Settle for no risk and no reward.

On the flip side, the fixation with winning, and doing all you can — employing tricks and even manipulating the other side — to ensure you don’t lose a negotiation certainly doesn’t help. I don’t encourage it. It can kill deals, bankrupt relationships and ruin reputations.

There’s more to negotiating than a battle of wits and words that results in losers and winners.
In fact, the more I learn the more I see that the art and science of negotiation are based on surprisingly simple communication tools that help us connect rather than combat with each other.

Consider the fact that experts in both win-win (or interest-based bargaining) and win-lose (distributive bargaining) camps suggest that you ask open-ended questions to uncover the underlying interests, fears and desires of the other side.

The secret sauce is in asking questions that start with why, how, what, who, when and where. With an open mind and in a nurturing manner. You do this to get deeper past stated positions, or what people say they want, and into interests, or the silent drivers making them say what they want.

You go deeper.

Then both camps also agree you’ll need to come up with creative solutions that satisfy the interests of both sides. Once you understand what drives, motivates and irks your negotiation partner, you’ll see the full picture and generate new solutions. You’ll also put on the table all other possible negotiables (a special perk, benefits, or new features) and prioritize them according to your needs, values, and intention.

First you go deeper, then you go wider.

The outcome may not be black and white, entirely win-win or win-lose.

In practical terms, this gives you room to negotiate again or renegotiate in the future. This creates opportunities for even more value and better outcomes. I believe a good negotiation results in abundance, not a losing game.

How does this apply in real life?

For instance, if you didn’t negotiate your salary before starting a new job, and you hit the ground running, proving yourself to be a competent hire, then you can renegotiate. There’s no upside in allowing yourself to be undervalued, because it can lead to resentment that eventually saps your motivation to work and do it well. You might end up hating it so much that you find another job.

It’s in the employer’s interest to retain and keep you motivated. Consider the fact they’ve already invested thousands of dollars to recruit, vet, hire and train you (Studies cite retention costs within a range between 50% – 150% of a hire’s annual salary). If you are a good fit, it makes better sense for the employer to up your pay by an increment or two rather than let a big investment of time and money walk out the door. So your renegotiating your salary would in fact be a beneficial solution for you and for your employer.

I’ve left jobs that left me feeling under-appreciated and over-worked. I’ve also renegotiated my salary for a $15,000 raise. If you are adding value, there’s always room to re-negotiate, to add more value and abundance.

So go deep, go wide. Make your ask and make abundance happen.