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Stop🛑negotiating against yourself

Ever gotten up the nerve to ask for something—only to have your approach undermine your position?

In one unforgettable negotiation, a woman I supervised said to me, "I think I deserve a promotion and a 10% raise because I’ve been leading the new project successfully... But if that’s too much, I understand... Maybe a smaller raise would be more appropriate? Or even just the promotion without the raise would be fine... I really just want to continue contributing and growing here!" 

Oof, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t cringe a bit. 😬

I think she realized her mistake as soon as the words left her mouth. Sensing her hesitation, I paused our discussion and asked, "Can I give you some feedback?" 

I shared that while her request was valid, by offering alternatives and downplaying her request, she had inadvertently negotiated against herself. I also suggested that next time she might want to wait a little longer before compromising! And I encouraged her to present a well-thought-out plan and supporting evidence, rather than diminishing her own request. 

This experience reinforced a valuable lesson about the importance of confidence in negotiations: don't tell yourself NO before they do. Use the practical tips below to become an effective communicator so that you avoid unintentionally negotiating against your own interests.

Quick Confidence Tips to Stop Negotiating Against Yourself

  1. Interpersonal: Avoid over-explaining or justifying. When making a request or presenting your terms, clarity and conciseness are essential. Over-explaining or providing excessive justification can signal insecurity and weaken your position. For example, instead of saying, "I’d like a raise because I’ve been working really hard, taken on extra projects, improved my skills, and need more money because my rent went up," opt for, “I’d like to discuss a raise based on my performance this past year, including leading the new project and exceeding our sales targets.” Practice a straightforward delivery—end your statement with a definitive period rather than framing it as a question. And remember to focus on your achievements and the value you add.

  2. Embodied: Practice silence. Silence is a powerful tool in negotiations. After stating your terms or making an offer, resist filling the silence. Speaking too quickly can lead to concessions. Instead of saying, "I think a 10% raise would be fair. But if that's too much, maybe 5%?" simply state, "I think a 10% raise would be fair," then...ready for it? Wait for the response. Being comfortable with silence shows confidence and allows you both time to process and think. It's also a very safe place to be in a negotiation because you're not agreeing to something you'll later regret.

  3. Mindset: Use objective criteria. Basing your arguments on objective standards strengthens your case and reduces susceptibility to emotional bias. For example, rather than saying, "I feel I deserve this promotion because I’ve been stressed and working long hours," state, "Based on my contributions to the project and our client outcomes—including increased revenue, I believe I’m ready for this promotion. Here's a one-pager where I've summarized everything." By taking the time to sum up accolades and results in a one-page document that your manager can refer to later, you inspire confidence. So support your case with facts and data for a more compelling argument!

Building self-confidence in negotiations means avoiding negotiating against yourself to secure the most favorable outcomes. Fortunately, confidence is a skill that can be developed with practice. Start applying these tips today and watch your negotiation skills—and your self-confidence—grow.

Have you ever caught yourself negotiating against your own interests? What was the situation, and how did you handle it? Share your experiences in the comments below!


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