Negotiation Tips for Women: How to Confidently Approach Your Counterpart


It’s not always easy for women to be confident in the world of high-stakes negotiations. After all, women and men are often treated differently in the workplace, so many women face an uphill battle when they sit down at the table.

Here are some negotiation tips for women to keep in mind to ensure your next engagement delivers the results you’re hoping for.

Woman shaking hands with counterpart after negotiating a deal

1. Be prepared.

To paraphrase Miguel de Cervantes, to be prepared is half the battle. 

We have a saying here at The Black Swan Group: We don’t rise to the occasion; we fall to our highest level of preparation. If you want to increase the chances your next negotiation goes well, make sure you spend enough time preparing ahead of the engagement.

One easy way to do this is by using our “Negotiation One-Sheet” and writing down your goals, summarizing the negotiation up to that point to elicit a “That’s Right”™ response,  coming up with a list of go-to Labels™ you can use, and constructing your list of Accusation Audits™.  

Far too often, people set unrealistic goals. Make sure you don’t fall into that trap. At the same time, don’t try to plan the entire negotiation out ahead of time. Instead, be flexible and open-minded. Let your counterpart give you information and follow where it leads. That’s how you find the Black Swans.

In addition to preparing for the negotiation itself, you should also spend some time researching your counterpart. You can learn a lot just by Googling their name, the company they work for, and their corporate values.

All this said, make sure you aren’t overprepared. When you are overprepared, you expect things to go a certain way, and you miss opportunities because of it. There is a fine line. The more you engage in preparing and using the Black Swan skills the easier it will be to discover your threshold. 

2. Get in the proper mindset.

The best negotiators enter the room or the call with the proper mindset. As a woman, you need to do your best to make sure you’re “likable.” 

To do this, pay attention to your tone of voice and try to sound as accommodating as possible. Don’t try to control the conversion. Instead, follow where it leads. Strong-arming your counterpart won’t get you anywhere. 

If you’re like me and you’re naturally assertive, you need to make a conscious effort to rein that behavior in. Remind yourself to stay open and approach each conversation with a blank slate. In doing so, you won’t fall into assumptions.

As Ronald Reagan once said, if you’re explaining, you’re losing. So be sure to stay curious and spend your time listening instead of talking.

3. Know the behaviors to avoid.

In addition to knowing what you should do, it’s also worth considering what you shouldn’t do. Here are three behaviors you should avoid:

  • Being combative: Don’t be passive-aggressive and don’t challenge the other side, even if you know they’re wrong. Use Calibrated Questions™ to help guide them to realize the point you are trying to get across. Shaping thought in this manner removes the combativeness they may feel at being corrected. 
  • Acting in an overly familiar way: Don’t act like you’ve known your counterpart forever (unless you actually have). If you’ve only met them a couple of times, don’t act like you are old chums. It will come across as disingenuous.
  • Being too kind: As a woman, you know that your kindness may be read the wrong way. To avoid your niceties being misinterpreted as flirtations, keep the negotiation cordial but professional.

4. Use the other side’s expectations to your advantage.

People expect certain behaviors from women. Some men expect women to be nurturing, kind, and subservient, whereas some women may expect rude, controlling, or mean behavior from other women. 

Play into this by launching into an Accusation Audit that addresses these expectations out of the gate. If a man thinks you will be weak, come in with a confidence that disarms them. If a woman expects you to be rude, catch them off guard by killing them with kindness.

Believe in yourself!

At the end of the day, you need to be confident in your own capabilities. 

If you’re new to the world of high-stakes negotiations, you’re going to have to fake it until you make it. If you’re awkward and unsure of yourself, the other side will take note, and they will consider you incompetent. On the flip side, when you project confidence, you can disarm your counterpart and shatter their preconceived notions.

Now that you have a better idea of how to approach your counterpart with confidence, it’s time to learn more about how you can teach your team to do the same. Continue your learning by checking out The Black Swan Leadership Guide today.

Download the Black Swan Group Leadership Guide

Sandy Hein

About The Author

Sandy Hein is a Negotiation Instructor and Coach at The Black Swan Group who has been with the company since December 2011 and transitioned to a full-time role in July 2020. Sandy began her career as a police officer in Alexandria, Virginia, and wore many hats during her 23-year stint there, including 10 years as a hostage negotiator. She was also a certified instructor with the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services and served on the training faculty of the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance. Since retiring from law enforcement in 2012, Sandy has gone on to teach criminal justice to high school students, author books, and train law enforcement agents across the country in several areas, including sexual violence, crisis intervention, and hostage negotiations. At Black Swan, Sandy follows her passion for teaching. She enjoys connecting with clients on a personal level and using a conversational approach to help them realize that—regardless of their personality or experience—they can use The Black Swan Method™ effectively if they have the right mindset and are committed to improvement. In her spare time Sandy is an avid reader. She has been known to peruse four to six books at a time with the help of an E-Reader.