Humans negotiate naturally from the time we are children, asking for another cookie as a child or a later curfew as a teen. However, as we move forward in our career, it becomes increasingly difficult to ask for what we want, said Exec-Comm consultant Jodie Stewart in a session at the 2018 Grace Hopper Celebration in Houston.

Employees tend to avoid negotiating salaries, promotions, or benefits due to fear, discomfort, and a lack of information about career paths, Stewart said.

Common negotiating mistakes tend to be accepting surface answers from managers, getting stuck on a price, and focusing only on winning, she added.

SEE: IT jobs 2018: Hiring priorities, growth areas, and strategies to fill open roles (Tech Pro Research)

Here are six steps to take to become a more effective negotiator.

1. Strategize

Before entering a negotiation, you need to set your strategy for pricing or terms to come away with the best deal. This means you must decide what you want, what you think you’ll take, what you’ll open with, and when you’ll walk away. You should set your aspirations as high as possible during your strategy planning, the Ex-Comm team recommended: Research shows that negotiators who set high goals tend to gain more than those who set lower ones.

Strategizing means identifying your currencies–what you can offer the other person, and what you can ask for in return. This forms the basis of what you are negotiating, said Ex-Comm consultant Ching Valdezco during the session.

It’s important to note that currencies differ from existing conditions, Valdezco said. You can think about this in terms of selling a house, she added: Currencies might be that you could offer to fix the windows, landscape the property, or paint the house before a sale, while existing conditions might be the size of the lot, the local school district, and the park nearby. Currencies are something you might or might not do for the right buyer, if it’s something they value, Valdezco said. Or, you might not. On the other hand, existing conditions cannot be changed.

“Plan what your currencies might be–what you can offer, and what you can ask for,” Valdezco said. This is not only money, she added. “Money is almost never the only factor in negotiation,” Valdezco said. “The longer the list of your currencies, the higher the chances you will find common ground.”

Currencies you might use to negotiate in your career include your job title, time office, or professional development, she added. Those you might use in negotiations with clients might include contract terms, scope, schedule, support, deliverables, and resources.

2. Set the climate

Set a positive tone when you meet the other negotiator by being conversational and relational, Stewart said. If possible, bring an agenda that both parties can use, and put the most important items toward the end, as you build a relationship with the other person.

3. Obtain information

“Negotiation is an information gathering process,” Valdezco said. This means asking a lot of open ended questions, Stewart added, specifically asking your manager with phrases like explain, tell, describe, or share.

Broad, open ended questions you may want to ask include, “What are your concerns? How do you determine your budget? What makes this issue a top priority for you? What would be helpful for you?” and drilling deeper based on their answers, Stewart said. Other questions might be “What are your goals for our team? What role do you see me playing in supporting those priorities?” Valdezco added.

4. State positions

After gaining new information, you should clarify what you know and believe, and how you can get your point across from your manager’s perspective, Stewart said.

If possible, you should try to get the other person to state what they want first, as this will put you in a stronger position for a counter offer, the team recommended.

5. Bargain

Often, people enter negotiations with the idea that if they are nice, the other person will give them what they want. However, “hope is not a strategy,” Valdezco said.

Instead, you should learn to use conditional language during negotiations, she added. For example, phrases like “What if I … then would you?” or “If I were to…then would you” or “Suppose we…then would you…”.

“Before you give away something, put it out there and test to see if it’s something the other person cares about,” Valdezco said. “You don’t want to give away things that have value. Test what you might get in return.”

This should involve going back and forth in a friendly way focused on the outcome, so it feels like a growth process, and not a fight, Stewart said.

6. Agree

Agreement represents the final stage in the negotiation process, and should involve the two parties coming together. In a successful situation, everyone should walk away from the negotiation table feeling that they got what they want and need, Stewart said.