Yes Women, You Should Be Negotiating with Your Friends

Never negotiate with your friends, say the negotiation experts.

That’s all well and good for men, but we women tend to make friends of our business colleagues, clients and contacts. We also have dozens to hundreds of people in the friendship garden that we’ve been tending since elementary school. Many of our friends have achieved success and many others have developed unique talents by way of which they produce terrific products or provide dynamite services. And they have friends engaged in all manner of work, some of whom it would be helpful for us to know. All of these people are potential sources of business, goods and services that we want or need.

If we women didn’t negotiate with our friends, we would have very few people with whom to negotiate. This might very well account for a significant portion of the wage and income gap. The reluctance to benefit ourselves in any transaction is particularly acute with friends.

So what are we to do? Should we just give up and learn to live within our diminished means? Or should we add the power of interest-based negotiation to our other assets to play a larger role in politics, culture, society and, yes, the economy?

Because you’re in this course you’ve already decided that you want negotiation tools in your garden. But what happens when you want to dig a few tubers growing outside your sister’s house? What to do?

Use women-specific collaborative interest-based bargaining techniques (yes, you’re allowed to share them with men so long as they’re wearing the secret decoder ring!).


If negotiations with friends result in outcomes that are not too big and not too little butjust right –that means their bargained-for outcomes are in the Goldilocks Zone. Why would we not negotiate with them? If you’re a lawyer and have a friend in business, why would you notwant her to get the best legal advice at the most reasonable price possible and why would she not want to give you her business because she knows you’re going to make her look good.

The research on friends negotiating gives us an extra incentive to be of benefit to our friends in business. You already know the good, the bad and the ugly about your friend’s workplace issues. You know just what outcome she needs at just what price. You know the ways in which she needs to look good to obtain the promotion she’s been angling for since last summer. She knows that your book of business needs enlarging if you are to achieve your goal of making equity partner next year. She also knows that you need to be getting the type of work from the type of company she has available – a copyright action brought by and against two Fortune 50 companies.

The women we teach fear negotiating with friends because they believe they’ll be tooniceand suffer harm in their business or too grudgingand suffer harm in their friendship. This, however, is not a business problem but a conflict resolution issue.

If you can’t be honest with your best friend, the friendship needs work. And if you’d sell a friend out for a few extra dollars, your soul needs tending. If you’re worried for those reasons, it’s time you start practicing more integrity with people close enough to you that you can try and fail, apologize and make amends and learn something extremely valuable in the process.


You’ll notice that these nine guidelines are the same guidelines you would use in any negotiation, business or personal. Your values of patience, creativity and commitment to reaching agreement will give you the foundation and confidence to stay the course.

  1. Establish connection and set the tone.
  2. Raise the subject of negotiation.
  3. Put all items to be discussed on the table.
  4. Make sure all stakeholders are present.
  5. Make an opening offer that provides a benefit to your partner.
  6. Tell your partner what you will do and how it will benefit them.
  7. Meet flat refusal with brainstorming and problem solving (more diagnostic questions).
  8. Log Roll: exchange things of value. (Something of low value/cost to you may be of high value to your partner.)
  9. Close the conversation (take a break or seal the deal).