I grew up with a dad who negotiated deals on everything. My parents would spend hours in a car dealership until he knocked off every penny he wanted in order to seal the deal.
Flash forward 15 years or so and now’s the time I need to start negotiating for myself.
When we got our rent increase for next year, it didn’t feel like enough to counteroffer, but it was enough that things would be a little harder financially for the next year. Since it was only 3 percent — the average rent increase each year in New York City — I felt like it was embarrassing to counteroffer, but in the end, we did.
My boyfriend and I sent emails back and forth between each other crafting exactly what we were going to pitch to our landlords. He was direct. I added a lot of “Thank you so much!” and “Hope you are well!” to the end of each email because I didn’t want to look like we were being too aggressive.
Their first reply was positive — they decreased our current rent AND gave us a $600 concession for the year. I was feeling good and started to like this whole countering thing.
Evan, on the other hand, wanted to push further. We still didn’t get to the price we had first suggested. Meanwhile, I cringed.
“It won’t hurt. They can’t take back what they already offered,” he told me as I edited his assertive email to sound more like “Can we please do this, if you want to, but if you don’t, that’s okay, too,” which was immediately changed back to not sound like the most indecisive and unconfident person in the world.
The landlords eventually came back saying their latest offer was their final one. And in that moment, I learned so much.
It felt incredibly stereotypical — a guy negotiating and fighting for what he wants while the girl stands to the side and questions if it’s polite to do so. I’m well aware of this gender divide and how it’s something most women need to work on. But seeing this whole process play out in front of me firsthand was definitely a wake-up call to start speaking up on my own.
The landlord didn’t come knocking at our door screaming at us. No one thought less of us for asking. No one died. (All of the things I think will happen if I ask for a raise/promotion/etc.) In fact, his email was extremely polite and he said he tried but that’s as far as they could go. And then we all carried on with our day.
If we hadn’t said anything, we would be paying much more in rent every month, totaling $1,680 over the year.
This feeling that I should be empowered to negotiate was strengthened even more when I recently attended a career workshop where I learned that employers typically hold back 10 percent of what they initially offer you because they assume you won’t accept the first proposal. One editor even said she would almost want to take a job offer back if the person she gave it to didn’t counteroffer 15 to 20 percent more.
From personal experience, some other things I’ve learned over the years are to keep it simple. Don’t write a novel on why you need more money. Everyone needs and wants more money — stick to the point so you don’t come off desperate and whiny. This is when you need to show your confidence and prove that you deserve a higher salary.
You can also negotiate things that aren’t necessarily monetary — like vacation days, work from home hours, etc.
And do your research. Don’t go into a meeting to negotiate and know nothing about the average rates for your position in your city.
If you’re still terrified, practice on your landlords! I have to say it was a little thrilling to see what they were going to say and know that I really had nothing to lose. It felt like I was gambling in a casino or something when I checked my emails, waiting to see the result. If they couldn’t give us what we wanted then we would go somewhere else (which we are).
At the end of the day, the worst thing that can happen is they say no. And just remember they’re already judging you if you don’t say anything so why not take the plunge and hopefully walk out of it a little richer?
And if they do say no, I think you should still treat yourself to a margarita anyway for trying.
What are your tips for negotiating? What has been the most successful?