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22 things you should never say in a salary negotiation

Jacquelyn Smith and Áine Cain
handshake interview job negotiate salary

(Did you mess up your last wage negotiation?Robert Kneschke/Shutterstock)

The art of salary negotiation is a crucial skill to develop, whether you're accepting a new job or trying to earn a raise at your current gig.

The conflict underlying wage negotiation is simple. You want to make as much money as possible. Your organization wants to pay you as little as it takes to keep you around. What ensues is often a complicated, stressful, and nuanced sparring session.

It's important to really bring your A game to any pay negotiation you take part in. That means doing your homework and adopting a pleasant but confident attitude.

Successful people are able to navigate this kind of stressful situation. Unsuccessful people tend to sabotage themselves by saying the wrong things.

Here are 22 such words and phrases that could really sink your entire negotiation:

1. "I accept [the first offer]"

Remember: This is a negotiation, so be careful not to end it before it has even had a chance to start, says Ryan Kahn, a career coach, founder of The Hired Group, and author of "Hired! The Guide for the Recent Grad."

2. "I'm looking for X"

Never throw out the first number. It's a terrible strategy. "You want to leave room for discussion," says Lynn Taylor, author of "Tame Your Terrible Office Tyrant: How to Manage Childish Boss Behavior and Thrive in Your Job."

Kahn agrees. "A good negotiation strategy is to let the employer offer the first number. That puts you in a position to see the number they are offering and gives you the opportunity to negotiate it up from there."

3. "That's all you're offering me?"

Never say this, or anything else that will offend the employer — even if you think the salary they're offering is laughable. Successful people are able to counter without coming across as rude.

4. "I have other outstanding offers right now that are much more lucrative"

Even if it's true, you shouldn't use "that card" to pressure the employer, Taylor says. "Only discuss the offer at hand."

And if you don't have another offer on the table, you'll definitely want to avoid this tactic. "You could shoot yourself in the foot," Taylor says. "The hiring manager may ask you to elaborate and if you're bluffing, it'll be hard to save face."

5. "No"

"In negotiations, you'll have to be willing to be flexible and provide counteroffers when the offer isn't in line with what you are seeking," says Kahn. By saying "no" you could be quickly closing the door on the offer at hand.

6. "Bottom line, this is my final/last offer"

These phrases sound like threats, and they typically close out the negotiation, says HR expert Steve Kane. "If you say any of these things, and the demand is not met by the employer, the negotiation will be over and you'll have to be prepared to walk away."

7. "I know this may sound a little aggressive, but ..."

If your rationale is based on fact, you should never have to preface your request with this type of disclaimer.

8. "I hate to have to ask for this, but ..."

True, it might not be the easiest thing to ask for more money — but saying you "hate to have to do it" is a flat-out lie. Plus, it's just a really terrible way to preface the negotiation.

9. "I need ..."

You should never say you need X amount more because of expenses or debt. "Don't bring in personal issues; this is about your merit and the job fit," says Taylor.

10. "I heard you offered John $X, and I'm a harder worker"

Never use gossip in a salary negotiation — and definitely don't compare yourself to others. It's a mean and unprofessional that only unsuccessful people use.

Of course it's fine (and recommended) to do your research on compensation — but that should be done on sites like Glassdoor and PayScale ... not at the office water cooler.

11. "I think ..."

Don't use "I think" or "maybe" or any other "uncertain words," says Jessica Miller-Merrell, editor of Blogging4Jobs.com and CEO of Xceptional HR. "Always speak confidently."

12. "The least I'd be willing to accept is X"

This is a rookie mistake. If you tell them the parameters of the lowest offer your willing to take, that could be what you'll get.

13. "Sorry"

Have confidence in yourself. "If you know your value and what you'll be bringing to the company, there will be no need to apologize for asking for more," Kahn says.

14. "Cheap/Lousy/Terrible"

These words are demeaning or disrespectful to the employer, Kane explains. "The employer may decide they don't want you to work there after all because of the lack of respect you show them."

15. "But I'm worth so much more"

Of course you'll want to mention your value in a salary negotiation — but try to say it in a way that isn't so obnoxious. Successful people are able to balance this without coming off as arrogant.

16. "You might not think I'm worth this, but …"

Just don't.

"You want to be direct, polite, and concise in your negotiation to show that you are competent and a valued member of the team," Miller-Merrell concludes.

17. "That sounds fair"

It's either fair or it isn't. Successful people go into negotiations armed with a strong knowledge of competitive salaries in their field, occupation, and workplace. Something that "sounds fair" may turn out to be unfair after all, if you don't do your research ahead of time.

18. "Let's get this over with"

You don't want to make a bad impression, even though you're probably going to be sparring with whoever you're going to be negotiating with. Try to come to the table with a positive, pleasant attitude. You can be both firm and polite at the same time.

19. "If I don't get this salary/raise, my life is going to fall apart"

You may sincerely be going through a tough time, but a salary negotiation is not the time to bring that up. It'll make you sound like you're trying to emotionally blackmail the person you're talking to.

20. "I just want a higher salary"

Everyone wants higher wages. However, sometimes that's just not in the cards. That doesn't mean you should just give up in your negotiation. See if you can wrangle increased vacation time, educational opportunities, or additional benefits out of your talk, if more money isn't in the picture. Only unsuccessful folks give up after hearing that wage increases are a no-go.

21. "If I don't get this wage increase, I'll quit"

It's totally reasonable — smart, even — to look around for other opportunities if you feel you're not being adequately compensated. What's not fine is to make threatening statements like this during a pay negotiation. They'll just backfire on you and make you come across as rather unsuccessful.

22. "I don't know"

If you sound clueless at any point in the negotiation, the opposite part will swoop in and take advantage of that. Do your research and make sure to project a calm, confident vibe during the talk.

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