“Give the number first and make it high as hell” so says Bozoma Saint John, Chief Brand Officer for Uber.

When it comes to negotiating your salary as a woman  St. John concludes, you must throw out the high number first in order not to be low-balled from the beginning.

St. John’s advice goes against everything we have been taught about negotiation. She specifically targets this advice to women who traditionally shy away from feeling comfortable asking for what they are worth.

“Do the work. Know the range, then exceed the range” she states. “You can always negotiate down just a little bit. If you allow someone else to give you the number, there is no way to get back up from a low number.”

If truth be told, this advice makes my stomach hurt. It goes against my very nature not to be “collaborative” and try to find a win-win for all.  I find myself feeling grateful to just be given an opportunity in the first place. And now she wants me to ask for more?


Why is it that when it comes to negotiation, many women just don’t ask?

I was reminded of St. John’s advice as we negotiated the sale price of our home last week. I was ready to take the first offer and be done with it but my husband looked at me like I was crazy, politely declined, and threw back a number very close to our initial ask.  “What if they walk away?” I asked him. “Then they walk away,” he said calmly. “We have something of value and they know it. They want it. We have it. They will come back.”

I proceed to sweat profusely for the next 12 hours waiting for their response, but he was correct. They knew the value. They wanted it. They agreed.

“We have something of value.” That quote bothered me a bit. Was the reason why I am so uncomfortable negotiating for myself is that I don’t believe I am something of value? Is the reason why I am grateful for each opportunity is that I can’t believe someone else believes I am worth it?

Imposter Syndrome strikes again.

But here is the sad fact ladies. Women that don’t negotiate can leave up to 2 million dollars on the table over their lifetime according to Linda Babcock, author of Women Don’t Ask: The High Cost of Avoiding Negotiation- and Positive Strategies for Change.


Our Imposter-selves will send us to the poor house ladies.  Two-million is the difference between enjoying retirement or never retiring.  Poverty is not noble. Our reluctance to ask for what we are worth (and know our worth) is ours to own. So here are some (mostly) painless ways to fix-it

Start Small. As in garage-sale small. Seriously. Place something on Craig’s List or your local Facebook Sales Page and find out its true value. Now aim high. Do not go lower than the prescribed value. Don’t cave at the first “will you take….” offer.  By starting small you get used to being uncomfortable staying true to the price and not giving in. I tried this tactic this week with a used bookcase I was trying to unload. I researched like-items and priced it fairly, but above what I would normally ask. I had a lot of interest in it, and within 15 minutes, I had someone asking if I would take a 25% discount. I said no (and subsequently broke into a sweat.) The buyer moved on and I actually sold it for the asking price an hour later. Small victory.

Put Yourself in Situations of Rejection. One of the driving motivators for failing to negotiate is fear of rejection. Nothing seems worse than someone saying “no” and rather than understand it wasn’t the right fit for them, we take the “no” as a sign of our worth. We need to build our immunity to being rejected by others…and surviving. Surprise…a bonus is also that the more you practice (and survive) being rejected, the less it stings. The only way to build immunity is to increase your exposure. No pain, no gain.

Research Everything. Whether it’s your cable bill, your new car or your salary, get into the habit of researching monetary values of time, convenience, and service. This will help you understand the value of your dollar earned and dollar spent. Don’t accept value as stated. Research, research, research.

Understand that Nerve is Everything. Getting up the nerve to ask is 90% of mastering the art of negotiation. Seriously. Asking. That’s all you have to do. Know that it is going to feel icky, uncomfortable, and unnatural. But once the ask passes your lips the hard part is over. You may get it, you may not. But here is the kicker…you 100% WON’T get it if you don’t even ask. Just by asking your odds go up 50%. Think about that.

Listen. Listen to what the other person wants. Whether it is your boss, your colleague, or the person buying your house, take the time to understand what problem is that they want solved.  Analyze how you can solve their problem. Share how you can be their solution. Know your value and know your worth.  Women are natural collaborators (it’s why we have a problem asking in the first place!) Look at the situation from a win-win perspective; you are paid your value and their problem is solved.

Thengive the first number and make it high as hell.


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