Why We Need to Talk About the “F” Word in Salary Negotiations, with Jamie Lee

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When preparing for a negotiation, especially about money, people are often told that their feelings don’t matter. We are warned to not get emotional at the negotiating table. Women are seen as emotional while men are seen as rational thinkers and therefore better negotiators. But are your feelings truly a weakness when it comes to salary negotiations? On this episode of the Find Your Dream Job podcast, Jamie Lee helps us understand why we should pay attention to our feelings and why emotion has a place in business conversations.

About Our Guest: Jamie Lee

Jamie Lee is a leadership and negotiation coach. She has led hundreds of workshops on negotiation, self-advocacy, and transformative leadership. Her clients include leading organizations in technology, finance, and diplomacy. She also hosts the weekly podcast, Born to Thrive.

Resources Shared in This Episode:

  • Jamie’s free webinar series: Bolder, Braver, and Better Paid.
  • Recommended Reading: Jamie encourages our listeners to check out this book written by psychiatrist turned negotiation trainer, Mark Goulston, “Just Listen.”
  • More from our guest: To learn more about Jamie and access her free resources, go to jamieleecoach.com.


Find Your Dream Job, Episode 158:

Why We Need to Talk about the “F” word (Feelings) in Negotiation, with Jamie Lee

Airdate: September 26, 2018

Mac Prichard:

This is Find Your Dream Job, the podcast that helps you get hired, have the career you want, and make a difference in life. I’m your host, Mac Prichard. I’m also the publisher of Mac’s List, an online community that connects talented professionals with meaningful work.

I believe everyone can find a job they love. But to do that, you need to learn the skills to build a successful career. From professional networking to personal branding, you’ve got to get good at job hunting.

This show helps you do this. Every week on Find Your Dream Job, I talk to a different career expert. We discuss the tools and tactics you need to find your dream job.

Our guest this week is Jamie Lee. She’s an expert on leadership and negotiation. Jamie is passionate about helping women become bolder, braver and better paid. She says the “f” word — feelings — matter in negotiations.

In our conversation this week, Jamie says many people who prepare for a negotiation, especially about money, often get the following advice:

“How you feel doesn’t matter. Be strong. Don’t back down.”

“Whatever you do, don’t get emotional at the negotiating table.”

“Women are emotional. Men are rational thinkers and make better negotiators.”

“Your feelings are a weakness.”

All of this advice, says Jamie, is wrong. The best workplace negotiators, she says, recognize that emotion has a place in  business conversations. In our interview, Jamie says that good negotiators pay attention to feelings. That’s because emotions provide important guidance to what parties think.

Want to learn more? Listen in now at the Mac’ List studio as I interview Jamie Lee.

about why the “f word” – feelings – matters in a salary negotiation.

Now let’s turn to this week’s guest expert, Jamie Lee.

Jamie Lee is a leadership and negotiation coach. She helps ambitious people lead, influence, and thrive.

Jamie has led hundreds of workshops on negotiation, self-advocacy, and transformative leadership. Her clients include leading organizations in technology, finance, and diplomacy. She also hosts the weekly podcast, Born to Thrive.

She joins us today from New York City.

Jamie, thanks for being on the show.

Jamie Lee:

It is my great privilege to be here. Thank you.

Mac Prichard:

Well, it’s a pleasure to have you as a guest, and we have a provocative headline for this week’s show. It’s about the “f word”. Our topic today is why people need to talk about the, “f word” in a negotiation, especially a negotiation about money. By the “f word”, we mean feelings, don’t we Jamie?

Jamie Lee:

That’s right. The other four-letter word.

Mac Prichard:

Yeah. I am really intrigued by this topic because like you, I have training in negotiation, but not your amount of experience. Often, there’s an emphasis on logic and taking emotions and feelings out of the negotiation process. You’ve got a very different perspective; you think that in workplace negotiations, especially about money, emotion matters. Can you tell us more about that?

Jamie Lee:

Yeah, and I want to preface it by saying, it’s not just because I’m a woman. I know there is the gender stereotype that women are emotional, men are rational thinkers and therefore make better negotiators, and yet when you ask fathers of daughters who are on the sassier side, let’s say, I have heard at least a few of them in my experience say that, “My daughter is going to be a scary good negotiator when she grows up.”

To answer your question, feelings matter because… And out team professor at Gared R. Currin says, “Feelings about potential outcomes, feelings about ourselves in a negotiation, feelings about the negotiation process, and feelings about the relationship that we have with the other negotiator can be the most important factor in a negotiation.”

Mac Prichard:

Yet people want to ignore feelings in a negotiation for a lot of different reasons. Why is that so, Jamie? Why do many people advise us to park the feelings at the door?

Jamie Lee:

Yeah, you know, we live in a culture of achievement. That means we tend to focus, and especially in the workplace, we focus on, what have we done? There is this assumption that doing requires not feeling your feelings but just getting it done. I think we miss the bigger point in that our motivation, our drive to get things done, is a feeling. Feelings also point us to the thought in our heads. When we understand the thought in our heads, and the thought in our negotiation counter part’s head, then we are able to create durable solutions that satisfy both interests. We can do that in a way that is collaborative and we can do that in a way that is just a lot more gratifying than haggling for a bigger slice of the pie.

Mac Prichard:

When you’re talking about money though, in the end, isn’t it all about figures? This is the argument I know you hear a lot, and I certainly have come across. You have to pay attention to logic, particularly when you’re talking about salary. Perhaps there’s a job offer on the table or you’re up for the annual raise. In the end, it’s about budgets. What would you say to people who make that point, Jamie?

Jamie Lee:

They have a point. They absolutely have a point. Yes, you want to come to the table prepared with facts and figures. Of course, you want to be able to point to the lists of your accomplishments and have a quantified list, so that your ask is based on factual data that nobody can refute. Absolutely, logic is important, data is important, facts and figures do matter, especially in a salary negotiation, because they point to your qualifications.

What I’m saying is, don’t stop there. What I’m saying is, don’t just rely on logic. Rely on your emotional intelligence, rely on your empathy skills, rely on your listening skills, to dig even deeper and create real alliance with the other side.

Mac Prichard:

Well, let’s talk about that. Let’s assume our listeners have done the homework when it comes to the facts; they have looked at the local market that the job pays. Whether it’s a job offer that they’re considering or perhaps an annual review and they’re up for a salary increase, they know their numbers.

How should they prepare, Jamie, when thinking about feelings and the qualities and points you just made a moment ago? What steps should they take?

Jamie Lee:

Excellent question, Mac. First, feel what you feel. I tend to work primarily with women working in the STEM field and all of my clients are highly qualified people who have strong values of service and excellence. Doing really good work that serves the greater good is really important to my clients. Even though they have done great work, so many of them struggle feeling good and confident when it comes to advocating for the value that they have brought, and will bring, to the organization or their employer.

First, feel what you feel. It could be anxiety, that’s very common. That is why I got into this job itself, this profession, because I realized, “Wow, negotiation is a critical skill that is going to make or break my career and yet, just the idea of sitting down in front of my supervisor and asking for money, for a salary, for a promotion is giving me the heebeegeebees. I feel like I’d rather go to the dentist and have my teeth drilled than to do that.” That’s when I realized, this is something I really need to work on. This is something I really want to dig into.

I got curious about my anxiety. It’s okay to feel anxious, it’s okay to feel afraid even because after all, it is a risk, right? You are being vulnerable, you can get a no, there will be an outcome that you may or may not have expected. This is absolutely a risk. Every time I give a talk about negotiation, I like to share that to feel fear is to be human but to let that fear hold you back from speaking up, asking, and initiating a negotiation, that’s where it’s not so great.

Mac Prichard:

Recognize before you walk into that room, after you’ve done the homework about the data, you’ve got to pay attention to your own feelings. Anxiety and fear are natural. I have to say, Jamie, I love the image of preferring to have oral surgery, perhaps without anesthetic, as opposed to going ahead with a salary negotiation. I certainly have personally felt that and I’ve seen it in many colleagues, too. You’re tapping into something here.

In addition to recognizing our own fears, what other emotions should we pay attention to? Particularly those on the part of all of the parties who are involved in the process?

Jamie Lee:

Well, I want to say that just recognizing our feelings, the fear, it doesn’t stop there. Once we recognize the fear and allow ourselves to feel the uncomfortable emotions, we have to ask ourselves, “Okay, why am I feeling this?” It’s always triggered by a thought in our head. If we’re thinking, “They’re going to say no, they’re not going to like me after this, they’re going to judge me”, then it’s only natural you will have that feeling. The challenge is, “Okay, can we have a different thought?” Just today, I taught a class on how to win over difficult people in a negotiation and the crux of the message there is to just list the facts of your accomplishments, contributions, skills, without judgement, without adjectives, without adverbs. That way you can really have an objective look at what it is that you are delivering. What it is that you’re offering to the other side.

From there, you want to ask yourself, what do you want to feel about the contributions that you’ve brought? How do you want to feel? Of course, I know that most people want to feel confident, they want to feel empowered, so make sure you do the work of reframing your mind before you go into that conversation. I think this is really powerful and it’s something that is so often overlooked because we think it’s all about going in there, do your negotiation, get your ask, make the other side say yes, but people who don’t do that deep level of thought work, often see their outcomes backfire.

To answer your earlier question, once you have done your own thought work and you are ready to engage in the conversation, you want to approach the conversation with curiosity.

Mac Prichard:

Okay, and let’s pause there for a moment. We’re going to take a break, Jamie. I do want to talk more about what happens when you walk into that room after you’ve done that personal work that you’ve described here, and the preparation that you need to do to get ready to pay attention to the other party’s feelings.

So we’re going to take a break, we’ll be back in just a moment.

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Now, let’s get back to the show!

We’re back with Jamie Lee, the negotiation coach. She joins us from New York City. We’re talking about why we need to pay attention to the “F” word –feelings– when we’re  in a negotiation about money.

Jamie, before the break, you described the work that somebody needs to do when preparing for one of these conversations and paying attention to their own feelings. I love that because I think that you laid out a process for how people can manage and get ready for these conversations. Anything else you want to add about that before we talk about paying attention to the feelings and emotions of the other parties in the negotiation?

Jamie Lee:

Thank you for asking that question. I think it’s really important to question your own assumptions as well as some unquestioned limiting beliefs you might have before going into a high stakes conversation like salary negotiation because the pitfall in all of this is that you betray yourself in your body language. You betray yourself in tone of voice. You betray yourself in your actions. Even though your words say, “I believe in my value and I am confident that I will be able to increase the revenue of this organization.” Whatever the words are that you use to negotiate for more money. If you have limiting beliefs, it can really sabotage your outcomes in an instant way.

To that point, I want to add that it’s important to be curious about how the other side is feeling because people will express themselves in non verbal ways. Most of our communication is done non-verbally. I think there was a researcher who found out that less than ten percent of what we communicate is through the words that we use. One of the examples that I often bring up in these negotiation workshops is, let’s say you are having a conversation with your supervisor, and you bring up a sticky point and all of a sudden your counterpart crosses their arms, they cock their head, or they lose eye contact with you and start looking elsewhere. This is a signal to you that their mind has gone elsewhere and they’re feeling something and they’re trying to avoid that feeling because it’s uncomfortable to them.

Does that address your question?

Mac Prichard:

It does, of course. I’m curious, and I know our listeners are too, when you see those behaviors, how should you respond? Even more importantly, how should you interpret that? When you see someone cross their arms or look away, it’s a lack of interest I’m hearing you say, but is there anything else going on and what is the best way to respond?

Jamie Lee:

Excellent question, Mac. This all relates to what we’re talking about because the f word, feelings, are triggered by thoughts. In a situation like this, where you encounter body language that signals something is slightly off, it’s so easy and so tempting to interpret that as something negative. Our brains are hardwired for story telling and our brains are also biased for loss aversion. We’re always going to be afraid that something is going to go wrong. We’re always going to be afraid of losing status or a relationship. This is where that emotional intelligence, self-awareness, self-management comes into play. It is really key to both leadership and negotiation.

This is when you want to get curious, not make an assumption. It would be tempting to say, “Oh this person is bored”, or, “I just pissed this person off and this conversation is going in a bad direction.” I’ll speak for myself, I would have that temptation. Instead, get curious.

Mac Prichard:

You’re ahead of me, Jamie. I was going to say, how should people exercise that curiosity? What should they do?

Jamie Lee:

My negotiation mentor, Lisa Gates of She Negotiates, taught me this, she says, “Whenever you get stuck in impasse or you don’t know what to do, just form your mouth into a W.” Ask an open-ended, diagnostic question. These are questions that start with the words, what, how, why, who, when, which, where? Diagnostic questions, you’re trying to diagnose this thing that you don’t understand. Almost going in like a journalist or a doctor, trying to better understand.

I’ll give you an example from my own life. I used to work as an operations director for a tech company here in New York and one day I was having a meeting with the sales director who was obviously frustrated about a process that we shared between operations and sales. He was bringing it up, and he looks upset, and it was very tempting for me to think, “Okay, he’s mad at me.” But instead I formed my mouth into a W and I said, “I hear this is an issue, what would be an ideal situation for you?” Then he immediately said, “I know the sales team has to own this process. I know that ideally we would be following up and making sure that the data was consistent.” It was a completely different response than my brain would have anticipated.

There’s the power of curiosity, and there’s the power of questions that are intended to invite the other side to share with you what is in their mind. What is in their thought process?

Mac Prichard:

As you ask those questions and draw people out, and I think it’s very insightful to do that, how should you act on that information as you listen? How curious should people be, Jamie? How should they act on what they hear?

Jamie Lee:

Very good question. Tony Robbins says information is power when you apply it, when you act on that information. I would say, you want to ask questions but you also want to create an environment of trust. You don’t want to be interrogating the other side and be solely focused on information gathering. Negotiation, at the end, is about influencing behavior of the other side. In order to influence them, you have to create support and trust. If they share information with you that’s valuable, that’s useful, share information with them. This is a two way street.

To directly answer your question, the short answer is, it depends. The slightly longer answer would be, you ask questions throughout the process of negotiating. You ask questions at the beginning, in the end, in the middle. You ask questions enough to create understanding, mutual respect, until you know enough, you understand, and you have insight as to what are their underlying interests. Not just what they say they want, but why they want what they want.

Mac Prichard:

As you go through this process, and again I’m imagining a listener who’s considering a job offer, or someone who’s getting ready for that annual review and now they’re sitting across the table from a manager. They’ve done the work, they’ve got their facts straight, they know what the market pays for the position, or what the typical increases are. They have paid attention to their own emotions and they’re paying careful attention to their negotiating partner’s emotions. How do you bring it to a close, Jamie? In the end, it’s about getting an agreement that our listener wants. Often we don’t get everything we want but how do you arrive at an acceptable agreement that serves all the partners? Also, doing it in a way that incorporates your insights here about emotions?

Jamie Lee:

Excellent question, Mac. I think how you close will depend on the level of your clarity. What I mean by that is, do you know what you want? Do you know why you want what you want? If you want a fifteen thousand dollar increase in salary, what does that mean to you? Why is it important that it’s that much money? If you can’t get fifteen thousand? What else is important?

Part of the preparation process is getting very clear on what your own personal values are and how those values align with your ask. Then, sequencing your ask so that it is in alignment with your own values. I have clients who really value freedom; location independence is very important to several of my clients. Being able to work wherever they want, whenever they want, is really important. For some, that might be worth more to them than a five thousand dollar increase. If it was between a job where they would get paid fifty thousand dollars more but they had to come into the office 9-5 and sit in a cubicle, or they had the choice of working for slightly less money but they can do the work wherever and whenever they wanted, they would choose the freedom.

I also want to add one more thing to what I shared with you about asking open-ended questions, if you don’t mind.

Mac Prichard:

Please go ahead, Jamie.

Jamie Lee:

For this specific example of somebody who is negotiating salary, the quality of your questions signals to the interviewer your leadership potential. Are you curious? Are you informed? Are you interested and are you a good listener? These are all questions that somebody would be asking in the back of their mind if they consider a candidate, “Would I like working with this person?” I have a question that I’d like to offer your listeners that I think would be really great.

It’s something that is inspired from a book I recently read called Just Listen, by psychiatrist turned negotiation trainer, Mark Goulston. In the book, he suggests that you ask this question. Ask the interviewer, “Imagine a year from now, what would you have wanted to see from a candidate that you hired, that would make you feel that you made the right choice? What are the qualities of a candidate that would make you feel that it was the best decision you made a year from now?” This question makes the listener think about the future and think beyond just the exchange. That opens up more possibilities. I think it’s a really exciting question to ask.   

Mac Prichard:

I think that’s a great interview question. I’ve heard variations on it and I’m so glad you brought it up.

Thanks so much for your insights today, Jamie. Now tell us, what’s next for you?

Jamie Lee:

I am on a mission to help double women’s income and impact. I believe in the awesome power of financial abundance. I am wrapping up 2018 with a series of free webinars. I have already started and there will be more. If you come to my website, jamieleecoach.com, you’ll be able to register for the free webinar series which I’m calling, Bolder, Braver, and Better Paid.

Mac Prichard:

Well, terrific. I know that people can find out not only about the webinars, but other services you offer, as well as a great blog and your podcast about these topics.

Jamie, thanks for being on the show today.

Jamie Lee:

Thank you so much, Mac, it’s been my pleasure.

Mac Prichard:

Take care.

I enjoyed that conversation with Jamie. Here’s my big takeaway: Emotions matter when negotiating. That might sound obvious but I think it’s something we don’t pay attention to when we’re getting ready for a conversation, whether it’s about money, or promotion, or other workplace negotiation. Not only do our own emotions matter, we have to pay attention to the feelings of all the parties involved  in the negotiation, especially when it’s about money.

Another point I heard Jamie make was the importance of doing your homework. Getting your numbers straight, as well as paying attention to feelings.

We’ve got a resource that can help you. It’s called How to Talk About Money In An Interview. It offers practical tips about how to do the market research that Jamie talked about so you know what jobs in your city pay. It also gives you suggestions about how to answer questions that might make you feel uncomfortable about your salary expectations.

Just as you’ve got to pay attention to emotions, you’ve got to prepare for these conversations. Our resource can help you do that. Get your guide today; it’s called, How to Talk About Money in an Interview. You can go to macslist.org/moneytalk to be ready for your next conversation.

Thanks for listening to today’s episode of Find Your Dream Job.

Please join us next Wednesday. Our special guest will be Austin Belcak. He’ll explain how you can get a job without applying online. Aren’t you excited about the thought of beating the ATS system? Join us and find out how.

Until next time, thanks for letting us help you find your dream job!