"No one will ever pay you what you're worth. They'll only ever pay you what they think you're worth. And you control their thinking...Clearly defining and communicating your value are essential to being paid well for your excellence." ~ Casey Brown, President of Precision Pricing

All negotiations can be stressful. However, navigating salary negotiations can be a particularly complex and emotional process.

In the last position I held before launching Information Experts 21 years ago, I approached my performance review with hard data that demonstrated my worth based on my education and experience, and a spreadsheet that outlined the profits I generated for the firm, as they double- and triple-booked me on billable work. My boss rejected my salary request, and told me, "You will never be worth more than $34,000 to our firm."

Apparently, I wasn't alone in experiencing a failed negotiation. According to Salary.com, studies have shown that an individual who fails to successfully negotiate a first salary may miss out on more than $500,000 by age 60.

  • 1 out of 5 people never negotiate their salaries.
  • 44% of people never bring up salary negotiations during the performance appraisal process.
  • Fear is the most cited reason for failing to negotiate one's salary.

Pricing consultant Casey Brown asserts that "doubts and fears are natural and normal. But they don't define our value, and they shouldn't limit our earning potential." In her TED talk on navigating salary negotiations, Brown outlines the two-part equation for realizing one's true value and earning potential:

Part One: Defining Our Value

Brown emphasizes the importance of taking the time to sit down and self-evaluate. It's critical to know your value when beginning negotiations. Brown says that you should ask yourself the following questions:

  • What are my clients'/companies' needs and how do I meet them?
  • What is my unique skill set that makes me better qualified to serve in my company/serve my clients?
  • What do I do that no one else does?
  • What problems do I solve for the company/clients?
  • What value do I add?

The Muse advises to begin with researching the average salary for the position in your industry, taking location into account. Glassdoor and Payscale are two sites that can help you begin to get an idea of the going rate for the job you are offered.

Job-seekers can also ask recruiters or those in similar positions for guidance.

When coming up with an actual number, The Muse suggests:

  • Be Specific

Precision matters. A more specific number -- $74,750 rather than $75,000 --increases the likelihood that the agreed upon number will be closer to the initial offer, since it is assumed that more research was conducted in coming up with that number. Also, don't provide a range. They will almost always go for the lower of the two numbers.

  • Reveal Your Cards First

The first number on the table is an anchor, to which the negotiation is tied. You want to control where negotiations start, so don't start too low.

  • Aim High

After initially presenting a salary request that they may reject, the company is more likely to agree to something reasonable. They likely will feel as though they are getting a good deal if they negotiate down.

Once you solidly grasp your true value and decide your negotiating number, effectively communicate this to the hiring manager.

Part Two: Communicating Your Value

  • Use Your Own Authentic Voice

Brown emphasizes that it's critical to find your own voice in your salary negotiations. Speak from the heart regarding your value, but back it up with industry data (value of your education, value of your experience level, average salaries in your geographic location).

  • Don't Use Diminishing Language

Brown tells the story of a woman who was being paid significantly less than she was worth. She used to tell clients, "I have a little web design company." In using those words, she was diminishing the both her own value and the value of her company. Instead, use language that is empowering and clearly communicates your value.

  • Take a Walk in Their Shoes

Brown suggests to highlight how your skill sets will benefit the organization. "Focus on serving and adding value, and it won't feel like bragging," says Brown. When negotiating, think about the situation from your other party's point of view.

  • Be Direct, but Nice

Former FBI hostage negotiator, Chris Voss, told The Atlantic, "People most of the time think that in order to push very hard, 'I gotta be tough.' In reality it's the opposite: The nicer you are, the harder you can push."

When negotiating, ask questions and don't be afraid to counter-offer. If they still won't budge, negotiate other aspects of the job such as vacation time.

Finally, don't be afraid to draw a line at the point where the offer is too low to accept. It's never easy to walk away, but sometimes it's necessary. Diminishing your market value, or accepting an offer that doesn't feel right, will ultimately undermine you.

No matter what, keep negotiating. Don't be afraid to ask for your value. You alone set the bar for your own worth. Good luck!