How to Negotiate Like a Lady (Even if You're a Man)

Last week I had a, er, run-in with my dentist.  You may have read some of the story on Twitter, or even here, but the long and short of it is, dude tried to do some work on my mouth in installments.

Like I was a goddamn car waiting for parts to come in.

Now before anyone is like, "Oh, whaddya know about dentistry?" I just want to say, "A friggin' lot."  Having worked in dental for most of my young adulthood, I guess I know a thing or two about how a dental office works and what can and can't be done in a day.  So when I call to schedule an appointment, and I specifically say what I need and ask for extra time?  I have a reason for doing so.

Anyway, I was sent home the first day with half the work done that I needed, and I looked ridiculous.  Not only was I not happy with my smile, they had scheduled me for the "next available appointment"...which was the following week.  Now, WHY I didn't just sit there that day and INSIST that the dude finish the work, I'll never know, but what I DO know is that I woke up the next morning with fire in my belly.  I said to myself (<--who is a FANTASTIC listener, BTW):  "You're a thirty-one year old woman and you will not be afraid to get what you want.  So suck it up, kid, and go for it."

That very day, I went on my lunch break to the office and asked to speak to the doctor.  I'll detail in a minute exactly what I did to get the answer I wanted, but I'm happy to say that less than twenty minutes later, I was seated in a chair getting my work done.  The awesome part is, I'd never felt more confident or powerful than I did right then, and I never once had to yell, threaten, or do anything crazy. 

Wanna know how I did it?  Well, I did it like a lady.  Here's how to negotiate like a lady (even if you're a man):

1.  A Lady always goes into a negotiation knowing EXACTLY what she wants--My dad once gave me the fantastic advice of, "Pick which hill you're going to die on" meaning, pick the one thing that is most important to you, and everything else is extraneous (now, he might have been giving me this advice in relation to a stupid boy, but whatevs).  I knew I could sit down in front of my dentist and demand many things (A fast appointment! A discount! An apology!) but demanding many things would probably yield less of a result than demanding one clear, simple thing:  fix my face.

2.  A Lady never raises her voice--It would have been really easy to start my negotiation in a rage, but I know most people don't particularly like confrontation and are apt to shut down if they feel threatened or bullied.  So throughout my negotiation, I kept my voice calm and kind (but firm!) and made sure to point out what I appreciated about my dentist.  I led with, "First, I want to thank you for the work you did yesterday.  I can tell already that the finished result will be spectacular."  By letting him know that I wasn't upset with the work (only the service), he knew I wasn't about to blast him with criticism and he was automatically more receptive to what I had to say.

3.  A Lady knows what she's willing to give in return, and she's ready to give it RIGHT THEN--If there's one thing I know about business, it's that cash is king.  In order to "sweeten the deal" for my dentist, I decided I was willing to:

a) pay cash right then for the service (HUGE in dentistry, since people often pay in installments, or when payment can be delayed due to problems with insurance) and...

b) wait as long as necessary for the service to be completed that day. 

This meant that I had enough cash in my purse to pay right then, and I even offered to pay before the service was completed.  I also made sure he understood that I did not expect him to short-shift his already-scheduled patients of their allotted time.  This step is all about sweetening the deal.  In other words...

4.  A Lady makes it as easy as possible for the party she's negotiating with to say "YES"--Let's face it, people are only interested in "what's in it for me?"  If you don't know exactly what you want, if you're a dick, and if you don't know what you're willing to give in return, then you make it really hard for someone to say "YES" to your proposal. 

You can also word your negotiations for the "yes."  For example: 

+ Instead of saying, "I hope we can work something out," say, "How can you help us reach an agreement?"

+ Give him options (but make them YOUR options).  "I can either come back when you're done with your patients for the day, or I'm happy to wait here until you have an opening."

+ If he initially seems resistant, clarify what he thinks you're asking.  "You seem hesitant to accept my proposal.  What are you hearing me ask?"  You may find that you were either not as clear as you'd hoped, or that he is thinking of consequences/fall out that you may not have considered.  Either way, having him repeat back his perception of what you're asking will help you hone your negotiation.

5.  A Lady is always a gracious winner--I am pleased to say that I not only left happy with my smile, I think I was also able to salvage my relationship with the dentist and his staff.  I made sure to thank him for his time, I waited patiently for my turn, and I upheld my end of the deal with payment.  Truly a win-win situation all around.

What about you?  Have you ever had to negotiate for anything?  How would you rate your skillz?