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Who are The Best Negotiators?

Ana Polanco

negotiatePeople often tell me I am a great negotiator. And I agree that I am. I can negotiate till the cows come home, whatever that means. So how did I get so good at negotiating early on? I stopped thinking about salary and started understanding relationships, self-worth, loyalty and value. Let’s Start with Relationships

In the beginning of my career I took rejection very personally. I would invest time researching compelling arguments about why the other person should give me what I was asking for. I resented hearing the word no because I put so much time and energy into preparedness there couldn’t possibly be a reason to reject my idea. Looking back I equated much of my self-worth with rejection instead of realizing there were some things I couldn’t research– what the other person wanted.

Negotiations are all about the quality of the relationship you have with others. If you engage in authentic relationships with others then you will succeed at not only knowing what the other person wants but giving it to them and receiving what you want in return.

So how do you know when you have an authentic relationship? Well it’s all about emotional intelligence. If you are not truly present and interested in getting to know someone then you’re unlikely to be able to read their body language.  Studies show that the majority of what we communicate is associated with our body language and tone, while the minority is associated with the actual words coming out of our mouth. This is further influenced by context or location in which you meet, your shared history and roles (boss and team member).

This is particularly key for managers. Context is really important. In the name of efficiency we often talk to our staff in the office about important conversations – like work performance, changing roles, staff restructuring, etc. If your office is small and cramped and you’re looming over your staff as you tell them they need to improve performance, it might be both uncomfortable for you and them. Do you celebrate and reward staff for a job well done. At the end of major projects, I would often recognize my team by taking them to a celebratory lunch and ask the President of the organization to recognize their leadership at department and executive meetings. This sent a message to my team that I see them and appreciate their work.

While I always couldn’t give them a raise, I always asked if there were other ways I could recognize them. Staff often asked for training and time off. Some staff asked for title changes. I always worked hard to advance those changes especially during hard financial times. We need to find ways of celebrating and honoring employee contributions – both the little things and the big ones.

 Have a Clear Point of View and Be Open to the Response

To be in relationship with others you have to listen to their point of view and understand its source. That requires that you get clear about what you want. Do you really want a raise or do you want a title change to recognize an amazing project you did? In addition to getting clear about your ask you have to bring down the barriers so you can hear the response. If you are defensive about hearing a “No” then you will inevitably send a signal to the other person that you are done with them. Instead come to the conversation with curiosity about why you can’t have what you want. Maybe the person can’t give it to you right now, maybe there is a salary freeze. Maybe the partnership organization is overloaded with projects and can’t help you at this time.

Whatever the reason, remain open and curious to the full response without shutting them out. Remember that relationships are ongoing conversations and you sometimes have to ask more than once and in different ways and times in order to get what you want. Remain open and curious to the conversation so that you can get what you want now or later.

Let’s Talk About Loyalty

So loyalty is a wonderful trait. It means you are faithful and committed in fulfilling obligations. Everyone wants someone dependable who does what they say they are going to do. But loyalty is a two way street.  Loyalty should go to the person or entity that is deserving of your fidelity. If your manager tells you that you can’t have a raise because of the financial crisis and then when the financial crisis is over and the organization begins to thrive, she or he still tells you that you still can’t have a raise. Trust me, something else is at play. Ask about your performance. Ask about upward mobility. Find out if there is a possibility to move up or if they’re just blowing smoke.

And always remember – the number one person you have to be loyal to is yourself. No one else is responsible for your well-being except you. So if you are working 60-70 hours a week and no one cares. You might want to ask yourself what you’re doing there. Organizations need to get straight about their values and how they transmit them externally and internally. If you support healthy lifestyles for the public and you have unhealthy work practices inside your company – you’ll never be the dynamic company you need to be and your staff turnover will be high – which is costly and inefficient and contradictory to your brand.

To Be Effective, Value Your Self

My mom taught me two key things early on in life never to work for free and remember no one can take away your education. She has been totally right in ways I never realized. When you work for free – as in there is no reward for your work – you will inevitably grow resentful for the experience. Rewards depend on the person. Some people volunteer and the reward is the love or thanks they get from mentoring a child. Others see money as the reward and others want to be recognized for their work. Whatever your reason, make it meaningful to you.

When my mom told me no one can take away your education, she didn't just mean a formal education. My mom was referring to my constant ability to learn and grow. Good negotiators are strong curious learners who are highly coachable. They adapt, leverage their emotional intelligence and use these abilities to connect with others in multiple ways. Are you constantly learning? If you’re not leveraging your ability to learn and are afraid of change, negotiation will be difficult, uncomfortable.  Invest in yourself. You are amazing. Go to college if it suits you. If it doesn't, read a new book each week, take a class on something you have never tried. Stretch your mind and emotions in new ways so you can expand how you see the world. This will make you highly relatable to others and ultimately help you get what you want.

Your turn: How do you approach negotiations? What works for you?

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