7 salary negotiation tips from the movies

Written by Kay Benedek
Posted on

Negotiation is a valuable skill that every one of us will need at some point – at both work and our personal lives. And negotiating well can often mean the difference between getting what you want and walking away empty handed. Thankfully, negotiation is a skill that can be developed. You just need a little bit of guidance and practice.

To get you started, here are 7 negotiation tips from the movies.


Establish your credibility  

In negotiations, credibility is your leverage for getting what you want. It’s not enough to simply ask for something. We must first establish what we’re worth. In the movie True Grit, we see little Mattie Ross hold her own against an experienced trader. Her first move in her negotiation is to show the trader that she understands the marketplace and the value of the horses she’s negotiating for. This forces the trader to take her negotiations seriously. Never underestimate the risk of being underestimated. Establish yourself as early as possible to start your negotiations off strong.


Start high/low

In a negotiation scene in Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, we see Bretton James and Louis Zabel use a technique commonly referred to as Anchoring and Adjusting. This means setting your starting number and adjusting throughout the negotiation. So typically, one person will start at a low value, one will start at a higher one. This allows you room to move so you can eventually come to an agreeable term. Negotiations inevitably end in a compromise, so don’t make the mistake of starting at the number you want. Leave yourself some room to negotiate.


Make it mutually beneficial

Regardless of what you’re negotiating for, the person you’re talking to wants to hear what’s in it for them. As we’ve learned from the Godfather, making an offer they can’t refuse is always a valuable strategy. At the end of a successful negotiation, everyone should walk away feeling like they got something out of it. This means you need to be prepared to make a compromise, and aware of the language you’re using – there is a time to be direct, and a time to be more diplomatic (and complimentary).


Never say ‘no’

In the movie The Negotiator, Samuel L. Jackson teaches us to “Never use no, don’t, won’t, or can’t.” These are obstructive words that leave both parties with nowhere to go. If you don’t want to accept a proposed offer, continue the conversation with either a counter offer or a promise to mull it over. Unless you’re prepared to walk away, avoid words that leave you without any options.


Be prepared to walk away

The secret to any negotiation is in the ability to walk away when you’re not satisfied with the outcome. In Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, just at the pivotal moment in the negotiations between James and Zabel, James decides to walk away, leaving the offer on the table. This forces Zabel to quickly consider the values versus losses in James’ proposal and make a decision. There will always be some compromise in any negotiation, but if you’re not happy with a final offer, walk away. You will either receive a counter offer, or you will go on to find a better opportunity. If it’s worth negotiating for, it’s worth the risk.


Don’t forget, confidence is key

We see it time and time again in The Negotiator, Wall Street, The Wolf of Wall Street, Nightcrawler, Lincoln, True Grit, and every other successful negotiation scene in any movie. No matter who you’re negotiating with or what you’re negotiating for, the most important thing is to be sure of yourself and what you’re asking for. You may experience some push back in your negotiations, and if you’re not firm on your stance, you could walk away unsuccessful. Remember, you can do almost anything if you do it with confidence.


Be patient

Some negotiations can take some time to settle. In the movie A Hijacking, it took 29 days for the hostage situation and the resulting negotiations to come to a successful end. While either side could have rushed the process, both parties knew that it would not have been in their favour to do so. When negotiating something meaningful, sometimes pushing too far too fast can mean pushing the other party out of the negotiation. Take it slow, go step by step, and be patient with outcomes.

So, if you find you’ve got a negotiation coming up, do yourself a favour. Rent a few movies, take a few notes, and get ready to succeed.

 

See also:

What your employer knows that you don’t in salary negotiations
How to negotiate a raise like a pro
The art of the deal: how to negotiate a starting salary
When a pay cut could benefit your career

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