Let’s get Ripped: Building Your Negotiation Muscle!

I don’t go to the gym in January. Too crowded with people who are trying to stick to their New Year’s Resolutions.

Don’t worry if you don’t feel like working out, either. It’s not too late to build another muscle for 2024!


Introducing: The Negotiation Muscle

There is a major myth out there about Negotiation skills. Many people think that Negotiation is an innate skill. That people are born with it, and you either have it or you do not.

People who believe this, let me look you deep into your pretty eyes and tell you firmly but lovingly, once and for all: THAT’S NONSENSE!

Some people might have more talent to become excellent negotiators. But negotiation as a whole is a skill that must be learned.


Learning requires practice

Saying “I am just not good at negotiations” is like saying “I am just not strong” without having set foot into a gym. Developing Negotiation skills begins with overcoming your insecurities, fears, and other inhibitions and just making the first ask. And then another one. And then another one.

Our discomfort in making a small request in low-stakes situations keeps us from growing comfort in making a move in high-stakes negotiations.

If fear and discomfort are keeping you from negotiating for more of what you want and deserve, starting to negotiate in your daily life is your first important step.

And for my ladies reading this, as per Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever’s research (Women Don’t Ask – go read that, it’s brilliant!), we only negotiate about 25% as much as men do! If you don’t ask, you won’t get. So if you identify, please read this extra carefully.

Okay, ready to get ripped?


Here are 7 small hacks that help you get really good at it.

Before we start: WHAT all is negotiable?

Some things are more obvious than others, and I hope you already always negotiate these. Things like your salary (yes, annually!), buying a car, your rent, buying an apartment.

But much beyond that, to rock these big negotiations, you need to train your negotiation muscle on the small daily negotiations.

Things you may not consider a negotiation (yet): Who goes out to buy the groceries, your phone bill, newspaper subscription, gym membership, the timeline for returning a draft, your seat on an airplane, check-out time, hotel room category, the clothes in a store, and and and. Which brings us to hack number 1:


#1: Consider everything negotiable

For a lot of reasons, we often don’t think something is negotiable. We have never seen someone negotiate it, we have been conditioned by society that something is not negotiable, or we simply believe that just because there is a written price tag that means that this thing is not negotiable. But those are just stories we tell ourselves. Until you ask, you NEVER know if it might be negotiable. I have been surprised by the most unexpected places, what all you can negotiate!

When in doubt, I always remember that there was once a study that said that only 25% of Americans ask for a discount, but about 80% or so who do will actually get SOMETHING. Now, if that isn’t motivating, I don’t know?!


#2: Start a habit of asking

Call up any subscription and say “I am looking through my subscriptions to see how I can cut down on cost. I am a loyal customer, so I wanted to see if you can make me a better deal.” You never know where you can get a cheaper deal, or extra service/bandwidth/discount.

Or, looking to buy this new luxury duvet? Email 2-3 sellers and tell them that you would love to get one for Xmas/a birthday whatever the reasons but that you are still hesitant about the price and if they could e.g. give a 15% discount. I have even done that with Amazon 3d party sellers, and it works!


#3: Let them compete / Improve your BATNA

BATNA – your alternative, is the strongest tool in your negotiator toolbox. So always get a few different offers and let them negotiate against each other. I recently had a safety grill installed for my kids on our balcony. Having 3 providers quote for the same thing got me 50% off the most expensive quotation. You don’t even have to negotiate much, you just keep pointing out that another provider has offered a better price, but you would love to work with them and ask if they could match.


#4: Humour

Negotiation is not a fight, it’s a dance! Doing it with appreciation, charm, and humour works best. People like to give things to people they like.

E.g. hubby and I are in his shoe store. After a while, I walk up to the salesperson saying “My husband is eying the 3rd pair already, we need to start talking about a bulk discount or I will have to drag him out of here.

Quick wit also works well. Cashier: “Do you need a corporate invoice”? “No, but we would take a corporate discount if you have?” – 20% off in the home improvement store because of some random coupon she finds in her drawer. How much easier can you have €600 thrown at you for doing close to nothing?

Of course, this doesn’t always work. But the point is to practice. And not just “the ask”, but also dealing with the rejection. Or the alternative people throw at you. Surprising moments such as “Can you do something else (points at the price tag)? “No, but I can throw in a hug” (😲) teaches you valid lessons in handling responses with poise and expect and reply to the unexpected.


#5: Think beyond the money

Great negotiators never forget the non-momentary stuff. It’s not always money. Often, there are non-monetary options that the other side can give you much more easily, and that are valuable for you. E.g. more days off from work, waiving the climbing gym initiation fee, getting 12 months for 10, getting a free personal training session, a free room upgrade, a spa voucher, an airport pickup, a voucher for your next visit, etc.

Even if you end up getting no discount, you might walk out with something.


#6: Look out for their interests (and trade for yours)

Good deals are always a two-way street. If you can find things that are beneficial to them, they are more likely to i) agree and ii) give you a good deal. When we negotiated our rental contract in Singapore (at the worst time..) we offered a variety of things to get a better price that we thought could be of interest to the landlord. Things like painting the place, an earlier move-in date, a longer contract term, an up-front payment, etc. 10% off the asking price at a time when people snatched up apartments!


#7: Show that you have done your research

Information is power. Knowing what other people are making, how much other stores are charging, what margins there are, what sales targets they have etc allows you to say “Can you match ..“, “What rate can you give us if we book directly with you and you don’t have to shell out 15% to booking.com?”


Summing Up:

  1. Consider everything negotiable.
  2. Get into a habit of asking.
  3. Let providers compete/improve your BATNA.
  4. Use humor and connect with people.
  5. Think beyond money.
  6. Look out for their interests.
  7. Show that you have done your research.


Ready to get to work?

Stay tuned for the next Negotiation Nugget. I will share with you an 8-week workout plan for your negotiation muscle that you can follow to become more comfortable with high-stakes negotiation by increasing your comfort in the daily ones.

To your negotiation success!

Dr. Claudia

Your Negotiation Whisperer


If you enjoyed this content, feel free to sign up for our free 10-week Email course on the fundamentals of Collaborative and Competitive Negotiation skills by clicking HERE.
Each week, you will get a bite-size email unpacking some of the most fundamental negotiation concepts that you can apply in your everyday negotiations, along with an insight video and book recommendation to go further in areas you want to learn more about.