Using Psychological Tricks to Negotiate a Better Salary

cog wheels and gears shaped as human heads

Research within the field of social psychology has made some interesting findings that may help you when negotiating at work. One of the most never-wracking types of discussion you might have at work is about getting a raise or salary increase. Luckily there are “mind-tricks” that will lead your supervisor or whoever you are negotiating with, to perceive you differently. This will help you achieve the result that you are looking for - getting the raise you deserve.

Psychologists have found that simple things can change a person’s perception of you, such as holding a warm beverage or heavy item. These small but subtle variations in the environment where your negotiation takes place, or even your own behaviour, as you will see, won’t ensure the outcome but it will most definitely help. Here are some psychological tactics to help you get a raise or a better salary.

1. Create a feeling of comfort - The concept of warmth

In a 2008 study, participants entered an elevator together with a researcher who, while completing some irrelevant questionnaires, asked them to hold either an ice-cold beverage or a warm cup of coffee.  After the elevator ride, all participants were asked to rate how psychologically warm they thought the researcher was. What the study found is that participants who held a warm cup of coffee tended to rate the scientist as more psychologically warm than those who held an ice-cold beverage.

Using this tactic could help you be perceived as non-threatening, selfless and loyal - all valuable tools when trying to get an increase in your salary.

2. Increase your perceived value - The concept of importance

As the psychological concept of warmth is grounded in the physical experience of warmth, so is the abstract concept of importance grounded in the bodily experience of weight. The link between weight and importance is also evident in our language, such as when we say that an important opinion “carries weight” or that we “add weight” to place emphasis on an important idea.

In a 2009 study, participants were asked to hold a book which was either heavy or light and then rate how important the book was. Results showed that people who held a heavy book thought that the book is much more important than people who held a light book. Not only that but they also thought that having a voice in decision making is more important.

This trick might be a bit harder to recreate, but the first negotiation strategy might help you here. What if the mug you offer your co-negotiator is not only filled with their favourite warm beverage but is also heavy? Hopefully, the hefty warm cup will help your supervisor subconsciously perceive you as a valuable employee and thus deserving of a pay raise.

3. Maximize flexibility - The effect of softness/hardness

The next psychological trick exploits softness/hardness which also correlates a physical experience with a behavioural response. In a 2010 study, participants were told that they would have to negotiate with another person over the price of a car. They were seated either in a soft or hard chair.

The study found that people in soft chairs increased their offers by almost 40% compared to those in hard chairs. Essentially, people in soft chairs become softer negotiators, while those in hard chairs become hard bargainers.

Although you might be perplexed about the application of this strategy, it’s probably the second easiest to implement. Just make sure that your meeting takes place in a room or space that has nicely cushioned chairs to make your boss/supervisor or HR manager less rigid when negotiating a better salary.

4. Use common ground – Mirroring, Mimicry and the Chameleon Effect

Psychologists have observed a phenomenon called Mirroring or the chameleon effect. It essentially says that people will mimic the people that they are interacting with without being aware of it. Behavioural psychologists noticed not only did the act of mimicry or mirroring make interaction easier; it helped the people interacting like each other. This can have a really positive effect on your negotiation because the more you can get the person you’re negotiating with to like you, the more likely you are to get a raise.

5. Time your meeting to avoid decision fatigue

Your mind is like a battery; some tasks drain your “brain battery” at a much quicker pace than other activities. Routine items eat up nominal amounts of energy, things such as decisions, though, due to their multiple variable nature and the simultaneous assessment of multiple consequences, take much more power to execute. As you know, a battery isn’t very useful when it is completely depleted and the brain no matter how complex in its functions isn’t that dissimilar.

Decision fatigue is exactly what it sounds like, fatigue as a result of intensive cognitive activity. People that are suffering from this type of fatigue might make hasty decisions or may avoid making any decisions at all. This of course will either inhibit your negotiations or completely derail them. The later in the day, your meeting is, the higher the chance that your co-negotiator will be tired and the more likely they are to reject you. So make sure that you schedule your meeting as early in the day as possible.

6. Application of these psychological strategies

Of course, the best way to successfully negotiate a pay raise is to be a competent negotiator and have evidence that you deserve more money for the work you do. If your efforts have contributed to the company in a financially positive way; either in the form of sales (income) or savings, document it or present that information during the meeting.

Psychological tactics can only go so far, and if the person you are interacting with finds out that you are using them, they might feel betrayed and manipulated, which will inevitably result in a negative outcome – either not getting a raise or even losing your job.

Have you ever used any of the methods mentioned above to get a pay raise? Let us know in the comments section below…