How to Approach Salary Negotiations if You Are Shy

Coordinators of the second annual Spouse Symposium at Dover Air Force Base, Del., stand for a group photo.
Coordinators of the second annual Spouse Symposium at Dover Air Force Base, Del., stand for a group photo on March 7, 2018. The full-day employment education event included several segments, including salary and compensation negotiation, LinkedIn and social media best practices, and a career information fair. (Staff Sgt. Aaron J. Jenne/U.S. Air Force photo)

Your big break has finally come: After applying to jobs and going through a series of tough interview sessions, you receive a job offer from an employer you really want to work for. All that's left is to negotiate your starting salary and benefits.

But you're naturally shy. You're probably at least a little uneasy (and not all that experienced in) directly asking for more than what's been offered. You are certain, however, that you're worth more than the initial offer. So how do you handle this?

The Positive Points of Being Naturally Shy

In the U.S., there is a tendency to focus on people who are outspoken and willing to express their wants clearly and persistently. This is not always fair or justified.

Shy people by nature tend to be less talkative with people they do not know very well. They are more prone to feel uncomfortable in the presence of authority figures, such as bosses. This can make them appear to be unassertive.

However, it is a myth that shyness leaves a person unable to be assertive. Being willing to stand up for yourself and ask for more comes mainly from being self-confident and prepared.

In fact, shy people often have some well-developed attributes that are ideal for negotiating. For instance, they may be used to doing more listening than talking, which means they could become better than an outspoken person at hearing what the other party in a conversation might be saying. A shy person might devote more time to understanding other people's needs and perspectives.

Also, when a shy person does speak out, it is usually after a good deal of thought about what they are going to say. That means what eventually comes out may well be insightful and important.

Negotiate Based on Your Strengths as a Shy Person

Being an introvert in a country that leans toward extroversion certainly has its drawbacks. Mostly it's a problem of the squeaky wheel getting greased while you, the more withdrawn personality, struggle to be heard.

Fortunately, you don't have to outshout outspoken people when engaged in a compensation negotiation. What really matters is your ability to state precisely what you want -- salary, benefits and bonus (if available) -- in terms that make sense to the employer.

This is where your introvert's listening skills come in handy. During the interview, pay careful attention to the employer's needs and wants. Then when you're asking for more than the initial offer during negotiations, show how well you heard the interviewer by establishing how each request you make helps the employer.

Strive for a Win-Win Result

An example of tying your negotiating points back to the employer's needs and wants is as follows. Let's say you've been offered a single week of vacation in your first year and two weeks in your second year. But you were used to at least two weeks of paid vacation at your old job.

You might propose in your negotiation that the employer give you two weeks in year one. How would you justify this?

Maybe the interviewer mentioned how much the company values employees who keep their skills and knowledge current. Simply demonstrate how that extra week enabled you in the past to take extra coursework related to your job (or would do so in the future).

It's the same with asking for more money. If an interviewer stresses the importance of getting to work on time and not being absent a lot, you could say that you would use the extra 10% of salary you're asking for to help pay for transportation that would get you to the workplace faster and reduce the chance of missing work in bad weather.

Whatever explanations you give, the idea is to demonstrate how the employer will benefit and that you're not just trying to line your own pockets.

Here are some tips on how to prepare for your negotiation, given your shyness:

  • Research salary levels before you start negotiating. This way, you know what is reasonable to ask for.
  • Decide in advance what is acceptable or unacceptable in the final offer.
  • Rehearse the negotiating session with a friend or colleague (or ask that person for feedback on the email you plan to send with your counteroffer).
  • Be prepared to walk away if the employer's final offer is unacceptable. Keep looking for other jobs until you've accepted an offer.

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