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About this Episode


Nicknamed “The Negotiator” at the age of 6, Fotini Iconomopoulos lived up to this name and became an expert, author and award-winning consultant on the subject. Fotini joins Karlee on Leave Room for the Magic to share invaluable insights on negotiation techniques and packs this conversation full of practical strategies you can easily implement.

In this episode, Fotini will help you reshape your perspective on negotiations and help you realize where you may already get a lot of negotiating practice day-to-day. She shares step-by-step insights and stories of negotiating your salary within a company versus only thinking of negotiations when you switch companies. You won’t want to miss the shocking statistic she shares on how effective negotiation skills can make a difference in one's career (especially for women). Lastly, she shares her wisdom about “the power of the pause" and how to use it as a key tool for maintaining control and clarity during negotiations.

Show Notes

  • Introduction of guest Fotini Iconomopoulos, a negotiation expert with a background in helping Fortune 500 companies, and a commitment to closing the gender gap.  Fotini's book "Say Less, Get More" outlines unconventional negotiation techniques.
  • Karlee kicks things off asking Fotini to expand on the misconceptions about negotiation and why are people so intimidated by it.
  • Fotini emphasizes the importance of being assertive, not aggressive in negotiations and shares the idea that negotiation skills can be applied in various aspects of life.
  • Fotini shares the value of practicing negotiation skills and positive mindset and gives advice on psyching yourself up (versus psyching yourself out) and turning nervous energy into positive energy.
  • Karlee and Fotini delve into strategies for preparing and practicing negotiation skills and the significance of early negotiation discussions for promotions and raises within a company. Fotini shares invaluable insights from being on the corporate side of bonus, raise and promotion discussions.
  • Fotini gives insight on the power of framing questions to gather information and express commitment.
  • Karlee asks Fotini to speak to the "power of the pause" in negotiations, which Fotini believes is a valuable tool.
  • Fotini shares how she learned to utilize the power of the pause during a challenging negotiation when her emotions were running high.
  • She discusses the psychological aspect of the power of the pause, highlighting how it gives you the opportunity to think more logically and strategically.
  • Karlee and Fotini reiterate the importance of rehearsing and visualizing your responses and reactions before entering a negotiation to prevent emotional outbursts and avoid saying something that cannot be taken back.
  • Karlee expresses her appreciation for Fotini's insights and recommends her book as a valuable resource for further negotiation techniques.
  • Fotini provides information on where listeners can find her and her work, including her book, social media profiles (@Fotiniicon), and a free negotiation style quiz on her website (
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Episode Guest

Fotini Iconomopoulos

Fotini Iconomopoulos is an award-winning negotiation consultant, keynote speaker and MBA instructor based in Toronto. She works with everyone from Fortune 500 companies to small business entrepreneurs to help them achieve their goals. She is regularly featured in the media and Harper Collins released her book, Say Less, Get More, in April 2021. Her father unknowingly influenced her career path at the age of 6 when he nicknamed her “the negotiator.” You can learn more about her work and find more of her tips at

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Host: Karlee Vukets

Featured Guest: Fotini Iconomopoulos

Produced by: Karlee Vukets

Editing: Andre Stewart @ Mixed by Dre

Branding: Leon Murray & Cathy Jones @ Bold Move Studio

Intro Graphics: Craig Mazerall Designs

Music: Night Moves by Ivy Bakes

Karlee’s Photo Credit: Olivia O’Young Photography

Episode Transcript

[00:00:00] Karlee: Welcome to Leave Room for the Magic, a podcast that invites you to embrace the wonder, beauty, and messiness woven into the fabric of everyday life. In this show, we'll bridge the gap between the practical and the spiritual, providing inspiration, tips, and tools from our featured guests. So without further ado, let's go make some magic.

Hi, my loves. It's truly my pleasure to introduce to you our guest for today, Fotini Iconopolis. Nicknamed the negotiator as a child, Fotini has been honing her skills her entire life. For the last decade, she's been helping Fortune 500 companies through high stakes scenarios and facilitating intensive negotiation workshops for clients across the globe.

When not with clients, Fotini is a frequent TV guest and instructor of MBA negotiations in Toronto. She also offers her experience for non profit initiatives and is determined to close the gender gap before it starts. Amongst her accomplishments, she's been recognized with the Network of Executive Women's National Inclusion Award as top 40 under 40.

Her first book, Say Less, Get More, is out now and filled with unconventional negotiation techniques to get what you want. Fotini, it is such a pleasure to have you on the show. I'm thrilled to share your wisdom with our audience for today. Thank you for being here.

[00:01:18] Fotini: Thank you for having me. I'm always so pleased to see people achieve their goals.

[00:01:23] Karlee: Wonderful. Well, I'm going to start off with a little story of synchronicity of how Fotini arrived on the show today. Every year, my mom and I go to this Art of Women's Leadership Conference, and Fotini was one of the speakers, and I found out of all the speakers, she had some of the most tangible takeaways from the day that I thought were brilliant, and I was so excited to share. Then it so happened that at lunch we just happened to sit next to one of her friends.

And so, she was gracious enough to introduce me to Fotini. And I'm thrilled to have you here. So thank you so much. Fotini, why don't we start off with an intention for today? I'll let you start.

[00:02:05] Fotini: Well, I mean, you kind of articulated it already. Anytime I'm speaking to a crowd in any format, the goal is to have people have those actionable takeaways to walk away with not just a little bit of motivation, but a bit of how to on something that they can do quickly that's going to create change for them.

[00:02:20] Karlee: Wonderful. Well, let's kick off with some of, in your experience, what are some of the misconceptions about negotiations, and why are people so intimidated by it?

[00:02:30] Fotini: I think one of the big misconceptions is what we have been fed for decades in pop culture. So it's that bang your fist on the table, the very slick, fast paced, talking.

Those are the people that win negotiations. And the reality is that's fiction for a reason. That might've worked decades ago when society was a little bit different and we were a little bit more tolerant of aggressive behavior, but that is not the case today. So you don't have to be aggressive in order to be successful in negotiation.

In fact, you probably shouldn't be. We want to be assertive, not aggressive. And it's okay to be assertive without being labeled greedy or bitchy or any of those things that people tend to fear when it comes to negotiation. That's one of the big ones. It's a very, when people hear the word negotiation, a lot of folks who aren't in that very extroverted sales pool, they go, "Oh, that's not for me, I can't do that." And the reality is you very well can, and you probably do it quite well if you can psych yourself up to do it.

[00:03:29] Karlee: Yeah. You use this comparison quite a bit throughout your book and your talks around negotiations at the home as well. And so even thinking about negotiations in a different way or comparing them to negotiations with children and stuff like that.

What have you seen around that or what kind of advice do you give to people around that?

[00:03:47] Fotini: Well, one of the working titles that I had for the book originally was ‘From Boardroom to Bedroom’. It was thought to be a little too cheeky for sales. But the point of it was what works at home works in the workplace and vice versa.

So it's the same skills that I'm using with my nieces and my godchildren that I am with executives in a boardroom who can act like toddlers at times. So it's these same principles that you're using everywhere in your life, not just in one aspect. So if you can master it in one, you'll be able to do it effectively in the other.

So for years, as I've been, you know, I've spent a lot of time training teams. So companies would hire me to go, "Hey, can you train our team to be better at what they do so we're not leaking profits through our negotiations?" And in that training program, I would tell people, I want you to use this in your everyday life.

Because if you start to use it in your everyday life, it will be a habit that I know you're going to use at work and it'll benefit the company. But if you can start to inhabit it in your everyday life, well, boy, is it going to feed your wallet as well as your employers and it'll just become more of that autopilot mode that will serve you so much better in all aspects of your world.

[00:04:55] Karlee: Do you find it also helps kind of unlock for people when all of a sudden they think about, they may not think about their conversations with their children as negotiations, but then, you know, all of a sudden they're like, Oh, I am quite experienced in practice at this, or I could use some of your tweaks even in those conversations.

Does it help kind of alleviate the intimidation factor around the boardroom conversations?

[00:05:20] Fotini: People tend to have a big aha moment when I point out those negotiations with children. And so they go, Oh, I have been doing this. It's that exact same skill that I already know how to do that. I just need to psych myself up to do in the workplace.

Oh, that's not so intimidating anymore. And that's not a new skill. That's just using existing skills effectively. So absolutely. I do think it helps to create that awareness of going, Oh, this is not brand new. This doesn't have to be something that I'm going to fumble on so badly. I just need to have the courage to use the same confidence I have with my toddler, at work with my peer, with my mentor, with my boss, with my client or whomever that difficult person might be in the moment.

[00:06:00] Karlee: Yeah, absolutely. When people are preparing for… you talked about psyching yourself up for these conversations… What are some tools that you suggest people fall onto and utilize in that preparation phase?

[00:06:15] Fotini: I mean, we can psych ourselves out so easily and most of the stuff I read now and the studies that I pay most attention to are the ones about psychology. It's not so much about, you know, who did what in a negotiation. It's about how do you maximize your brain potential? And part of that comes from having a growth mindset.

Part of that comes from positive mindsets, from reducing stress and so on. So there's a fantastic book called, I think it's called The Upside of Stress. It's somewhere behind me on my bookshelf here. Dr. Kelly McGonigal wrote it and she talks a lot about how you can psych yourself. I can't remember if her terminology is this or it's mine, but I've talked for so long about psyching yourself up instead of psyching yourself out.

The way she talks about it is you can turn that nervous energy into positive energy. So it's something that I used with my nieces when I'm tutoring them and I go, I'm so excited for you to finally put all of the studying to use when you go in for that test. Aren't you excited to finally show your teacher, your peers, whatever, what you're capable of? Aren't you excited to finally see all that hard work come to fruition?

Cause you can say I'm nervous and that's going to trigger your brain into a very different mindset. But when you tell that that same butterfly in your stomach, when you can relabel it as excitement, instead of nerves, now, all of a sudden you are triggering your brain for better success.

And you know, this is something that was studied in one of my favorite things that I talk about, and I think I talked about it on the stage at the art of leadership. There was a study that was done back in 2013 at Harvard, and they told people to sing in front of a group, but before they did that, because they know that, you know, not everybody is as comfortable behind a microphone as I am, they put them in one of three groups.

They said, in group number one, I want you to tell yourself, I am anxious. In group number two, they told them. I want you to tell yourself, I am excited. And then a group, they used group number three as the neutral group. They told them to say nothing at all.

And what they found was the group that told themselves regardless of how they were feeling, the group that told themselves, “I am excited”, outperformed the other two groups.

And it wasn't because they were better singers. We know this because they also outperformed them on a math test. And a speech test. So what this means is you can prime your brain. You can change your cognitive abilities by just psyching yourself up. By saying something like, I've got this. This is nothing new to me, I've done this with my two year old before, or this is the same person I deal with day in and day out. This is nothing more than just a conversation. There's so many things that you can tell yourself that you can become aware of. You're not telling yourself lies. You're just creating awareness in your brain.

So your brain doesn't have a chance to go to this awful zone. That's just not going to serve you. I mean, on top of that, of course, there's also things, practical things that you can do like practice. So I always tell whether it's students who are asking me for salary advice, whether it's adults, whether it's people, veterans who have been in business for years and years, when they're asking me for advice, one of the first things I tell them is to say the words that are going to come out of your mouth before you're in that high pressure scenario. Practice saying it out loud so you have some muscle memory in your mouth. So that the first time it comes out, it's not just a jumbled up mess.

And what you're doing is you're creating in your subconscious brain, you're creating these little firing neurons that are going, Oh, this is not new. I don't need to say it. Stumble. This is something I'm more familiar with now. So can you do that? Can you practice? Can you be prepared? Can you say it out loud? So it's not foreign to your brain. It's just your subconscious brain going, yeah, yeah, this is the stuff I already know. So this is easy peasy for me.

[00:09:59] Karlee: Yeah. Do you suggest practicing on video, in front of mirror, with other people? Or does it matter where the practice is?

[00:10:07] Fotini: I mean, I haven't seen any studies to any of that stuff. I think in general, I'd say the more daunting a scenario you can practice in, the better you're going to be when it comes to the most daunting scenario. So if you're practicing, if you hate cameras, practice on video.

If you hate saying something in front of people, practice with a friend who's going to make it a safe space for you. And then you're going to dip your toe in a little bit. You're going to make it a little bit more comfortable for the next time and the time after that. But, I mean, we all have cameras on our phones these days. So, if it's going to take you ten tries, because you keep fumbling in front of a camera as soon as that record button goes on, great! That's 10 tries you had more than in the moment when your brain super freaked out going, this is a new environment. I don't know what to do with this.

So I would say if you can just keep warming up and intimidate yourself a little bit more in a safe space, then you'll be ready for that not so safe space.

[00:10:59] Karlee: Fabulous. Language is so important. I love the psyching up versus psyching out. And so we talk a lot about language and, kind of translating language, developing new neural pathways around language. So thank you for reiterating that here. If I switch gears a little bit, one of the things you and I are both passionate about is this wealth gap between genders. And I've heard a lot of studies around different salary levels and the wealth gap between women, and then also the wealth gap between women of color and white women, and you hear it typically in a number perspective, but you gave a statistic in your book around the number of extra years somebody would have to work.

So if you could share that with the audience, because it made it real less than, you know, Oh, you're going to have a wealth difference of a couple million dollars. It's like, okay, but what does that tangibly mean? So it was kind of the statistic that's hit me the most in this sense, if you could share that.

[00:12:07] Fotini: Yeah. So it was exactly 20 years ago that this study was done and what they found was only 7 percent of women negotiated their first salary. So coming out of post secondary education, only 7 percent of women did that. What they did find also is those who did negotiate that first salary increased their offers by an average of 7.4%. And so that might not seem like a lot, cause you're like, okay, well it's single digits, whatever. But what another study found, they took that information, they took it a step further and they said, let's compare the person who did negotiate and the person who didn't negotiate. Let's give them the same salary increases and the same promotions for the next 35 years, arguably an average career.

And what they found was from that first singular 7.4% negotiation, the person who did negotiate now gets to retire 8 years earlier. All because of one single negotiation that has compounded over 35 years, and that doesn't mean every other promotion after that.

I have been negotiating my salary since I was twelve. I have negotiated every promotion, every job change. Even within a company, I've negotiated salary increases. So, you know, when you factor all that stuff in, my number is far more than eight years. My number has got to be well over 20 years. And that's, again, just salary negotiations. That doesn't include mortgages. That doesn't include things like cars that doesn't include things like home renovations or home theater systems or all of the other little tiny fractions of a percent that can add up over the course of our lifetime.

So those little tiny negotiations, you might think, ah, it's just one negotiation, but it can be life changing when you look back on it over the years.

[00:13:51] Karlee: Yeah. What's your advice - because a lot of people think about negotiation, especially in salary when they change companies, but what's your advice for people around trying to get promotions within a company. If they're just all of a sudden offered a very standard 2-3% inflation bump?

What's your advice when people are within a company and trying to move? Because I've definitely heard stories when people are at a company for 10 years, all of a sudden they find out the new people coming in are sometimes even salaried above them with all of their salary bumps is a very common scenario that I see.

What's your take on that?

[00:14:32] Fotini: I've had former MBA students reach out to me and say, I'm now responsible for hiring people out of the MBA program at a higher level than me, like at a higher salary level than me, and they're distraught when they find that out. And I help them through some of those conversations.

What I would say, if we go back to your original question, when you're faced with this, you know, you're offered something that's marginal at best, because maybe it's the average 2.5% merit increase or inflation increase and so on. The negotiation should start way before that. If you're waiting until that moment, it's possible to do something about it, but it's going to be a minimal something that you can do about it. It needs to start way before that. Too often, I find the big mistake people make is they wait until, let's say, the end of the year. Whether it's calendar year or your company's fiscal year, there tends to be a time of year when everybody is given these promotions or increases or whatever it is.

When they evaluate you and go, here's how you've done so far this year and here's what you have earned. Here's what you deserve. And at that point, it's too late. So if your end of year negotiation is in December and that's when your boss comes to you and says congratulations, you did such a great job, here's your reward, it's some promotion and no increase in dollars, or here's your reward, it's a nominal increase that doesn't even cover the rate of inflation, and you're like, what the hell?

You need to be having that conversation months before that. So I will tell people whether it's quarterly, maybe it's halfway through the year, maybe it's a few months before that moment. You need to schedule something with the decision maker, with the person who's going to be influencing this decision to go, “Hey, I want to just check in and find out how things are going, how I am, how my trajectory is looking for the end of the year, how I'm exceeding my objectives so far into the year?” You need to make it crystal clear to them that you are going above and beyond the expectations of your job or whether, if they've set these objectives, you're exceeding them.

You need to show them that, cause guess what? If that meeting happens in December, that means in November – and I know this because I've sat in this room – in November, there's a bunch of executives sitting around going, okay, we have this much money to spread around the company at the end of the year, who do we, do we think deserves a merit increase?

Or who do we think deserves a promotion? How should we ration this minimal amount of money out? And all of these executives will go to bat for their team members or their employees. And that's how it's decided who gets what chunk of the money, whatever little chunk there is. If you have not been in the ear of that executive, or if your boss has not been in the ear of that executive, then who's going to bat for you?

How do they know that you're worthy of having your name said in that room? So that means come October, if your boss isn't the one in that room, October, your boss needs to be having the conversation with the person who's in the room representing you and championing you. That means by September, you need to be having the conversation with your boss so that you're top of mind so that they go, “Hey, you know what that person did? She was fantastic. She did this great thing and there was this wonderful project and we need to make sure that we reward her cause we don't want to lose such a fantastic player like her.” So maybe it's September, maybe it's August, maybe it's every three months so that you're constantly top of mind and they know you are that star performer that deserves that raise, that promotion and everything that comes with it.

But you need to make sure you're having these conversations early and you're asking questions. You're being curious. You're not being… again, we'll go back to your one of your first questions. You're not being that bang your fist on the table type of person. You're being a problem solver. You're coming to the table being very positive going, “Hey, here's what I've accomplished this year. How, how do you think that puts me on the trajectory towards the end of the year? What else needs to be done or how much am I exceeding those objectives?” Maybe you're framing it in a way so that they see that you are doing way more than they could have ever expected of you or way more than your peer group or whatever that is.

So if you're being curious and you're asking questions and framing them in a way that they now get to respond, “Yeah, you're doing fantastic. In fact, keep doing what you're doing, or I'm so thrilled with the way that this is going.” Then you can ask another follow up question. “When should I expect to see this other role come available? When should I expect to see this opportunity become available? When's the right time for us to have a follow up conversation about my promotion, about my next big project?”, or whatever it is. And then you're getting valuable information from them. You're getting gold. They're now going to tell you, well, that role won't be available for such and such amount of time or let's pick up this conversation in October or November or December or whenever that time comes.

Then when that time comes, you now have their permission because they gave it to you already to go, "Hey, remember when you said this?" Because you're using their words. It's good for their ego to go, "Oh, I said this. I need to follow through on it." So get them to say it, ask, be curious, get these things that come out of their mouth.

Then use that to your advantage later when it's time and you can go, yeah, remember when you said I was on track to do this, this, and this. So here we are. I've done all the things. This is the moment you said that the opportunity would be available. What do we need to do now to make this a reality or how could, how can we make this sustainable?

I also like that word because it's a non threatening word that says, if we don't do something about this, there's a chance you could lose me. Without you ever uttering a threat.

[00:20:07] Karlee: I love that. Oh, I've never heard that before. How do we make this sustainable?

[00:20:13] Fotini: I mean, it's something that came to me a long time ago when I was in the career world doing this exact thing.

And since then, I've been coaching my students on it for nearly a decade and it's that agreeable but assertive way of saying to someone, I'm trying to work with you. I'm doing everything I can to find a reason to stay. I'm not looking for a reason to go. So what can we do to work together to make that happen?

[00:20:36] Karlee: Fantastic. Wonderful. Sorry, there was one other question that came up as you were chatting, and I've lost it. So hopefully it'll come back to me, around that subject. But thank you for all that advice. I think the tips, Oh, this is the question… it was in your book, you give a couple examples around your own experience in negotiating salaries at different companies.

How those went and sometimes how they went where you weren't happy necessarily with the outcome or the movement that you were receiving from your higher ups. Cause that, you know, can happen to sometimes at companies too, right? Where you get stuck and I might not be using the right words for it, but how would you describe if you want to share some of those things?

Like if people are at a company where it just feels like. Okay, I'm not having a boss who's advocating for me. I'm not getting my slice of the pie. They keep dangling this promotion, and then when the time comes, I talk about it, and it gets pushed further off, or there's a hiring freeze we're seeing a lot now because of the state of the economy.

What's your experience with that and what would you kind of advise for other people on that?

[00:21:49] Fotini: I've had a few experiences. I had a number of experiences at one organization, which obviously I don't work with anymore. You know, one of them, I don't think I mentioned this in the book, but I do mention an experience with this particular boss.

So it wasn't a surprise that this happened. So I recall having one of those, you know, mid year, here's how you're doing type of things. And I was always somebody who said, I'm all for growth. Give me all the feedback. I want to get better. So tell me everything I need to do in order to be best at this.

And so we went into this over an hour, I think it was actually over a two hour meeting. Like we even left the office. We sat down somewhere for coffee for two hours and It was an hour and 45 minutes of him telling me all the things that I needed to do better. An hour and 45 minutes of someone telling you, here's your faults and here's what you need to be doing.

And so after this hour and 45 minutes, I said to him, Okay, by the sounds of this, I shouldn't be your high potential employee. I shouldn't be earning the, you know, 100 percent bonuses that I'm earning and all that kind of stuff. The way you made it sound to me is that I must be terrible if you have nothing positive to say to me about this. And remember, I'm the one pointing out to him that I'm the one bringing in the biggest book of business. I'm the one that is hitting all the marks for bonuses and all of this stuff. So I knew I was a star performer on this team. And I said, despite all of these things, it sounds to me like you don't think I'm a very good performer, if for an hour and 45 minutes, all you've done is tell me what I'm doing wrong.

He goes, Oh no, no, no. There's lots of really great stuff that you've done. And he started rattling off a bunch of stuff really quickly. I said, okay, if we're spending all of this time talking about the not so positive things, and that's what's in your head when you go back to our head office, which was in another country, that's what you're going to be championing about me. So I can't have you thinking only negatively about me. We need to rearrange this meeting so that the next time we do this, it's more evenly split or at least you leave thinking about how positive I am because you're going to be my champion in that executive boardroom. And if this is what you're telling them. I'm demotivated, so why in the heck would anybody want to work with me after all of this stuff?

And we really did have to change how we met and how he gave feedback. He was also not somebody who had a lot of experience, let's say managing high potential employees or high performing employees.

So I think this, it was sort of new to him as well. And when you've got someone telling me, give me all the feedback and your brain, he's somebody who was always a negative person. So if that's where he's going first, I had to coax him into how to be a better manager for me and also how to be a better champion for me subconsciously.

Yeah. That, you know, fast forward a long time to, I was given an opportunity, let's call it a promotion to do a different job in the organization. And I turned it down and he went, why would you do that? And I said, well, you're saying this is the role you want me to do and that's not going to get me out of bed every day, so I'd rather stay in the role that I'm in. And he was flabbergasted. But I had done the work to figure out what got me out of bed every day to figure out why I loved what I was doing. And he said, but this next role is the next step to you becoming head of the Americas. And I said, who told you I want to be head of the Americas? All you do is put out fires every day. That sounds awful to me. So we just weren't seeing eye to eye on what my career path looked like. You know, this is the same person who, fast forward another time, I was given a promotion and I wasn't given a very high increase in salary. And I hadn't really had a chance to address it yet.

And then my other peers who are all… they kind of distributed the promotions all at the same time. This is something I talk about in the epilogue of my book. So it becomes a very long story in the book, but I'm going to give you the short version of it. And I found out my other peers confided in me because they were complaining.

They're like, can you believe? You know, I only got such and such for this promotion and I was like, wait, what? And I found out that they were getting paid more than I was. I was somebody who had more experience in the company. I had a bigger book of business. I had more success in the company. I had trained these guys, but it had just come to my conscious mind because subconsciously I knew this was going on, but it had just come to my conscious mind that I was being rewarded differently because I was the only woman on the team versus the dudes that were getting rewarded differently.

And so I brought it up. I brought it up to my boss and I said, look, I need to raise something with you. I wouldn't be able to sleep at night if I didn't raise this, but it's come to my attention that others are getting paid more than what I am. Even though I've done this, this, this, this, and this, and he said, well, so you didn't do that. So and so brought in that book of business.

I said, no, no. I have the emails to show that I am the one who brought that in. And yes, I coached him through how to finish it, but it was my business. Well, and so and so took care of that client. I said, no, I had that client. And then I coached him on how to manage that client because I was too busy and I needed to do another client as well.

So I was handing these guys the business that they did get. And he was ignoring all of that on top of the fact that I had bigger totals and bigger everything. Quantitatively, there was no denying, comparatively, there was no way to deny that I deserve to be paid more than these other people. He had no way to defend himself in this arena.

He could have played ignorant for a while, but once I pointed it out, there was no way for him to deny what was going on, but he did anyway. And so he started getting very emotional and saying, you know, I stuck my neck out for you.

And I was like, okay, how? Tell me how you did that. And then I was getting really angry. And this was done on Zoom or actually on Skype before that was a thing. Like this is many years before the pandemic. So we were already doing this. I was in my apartment in Toronto and he was in a very different city where I was being like, I was working long distance out of Toronto. And I was getting ready to literally want to strangle him through the screen. And then I paused and I stopped myself and I took this moment of silence. And I went, "Thank you."

And he kind of looked perplexed at first, and I said, well, if you said – because this is what I said earlier about using other people's words against them. You said you stuck your neck out for me. You said you've done all these things for me. So if you in fact have done those and I'm supposed to believe you as my manager and my trusted manager, then thank you.

And then he, you know, relaxed a little bit. Until I said, I'll take it from here. And that's when he went, I don't think you should raise this, you know, with HR or with our boss, like our then manager who was my former manager and my M plus one.

I said, well, you said that you've done everything that you can. You've said that you stuck your neck out for me. And so if that is the case, and I told you I can't sleep at night knowing I haven't done everything I can do to fix this, then I'll just take it from here. And that's where the conversation ended.

Fast forward a couple weeks later, and I was in the American office and the, you know, head honcho had flown over into that office as had I. And we had this conversation. And again, I'm using every single skill I had. So I said, look, something's come to my attention. And there's this issue and I think I'm being discriminated against based on all of these things. Here's what's going on.

He goes, Fotini, I don't know what you're getting paid. That's between you and your manager. And I said, well, he and I had this conversation and he said this and this. So I said, I'd take it from here. And that's why I'm raising it with you. And then he was getting so frustrated because I was clearly in the right.

Then he said, look, I know what you're getting paid and you're getting paid exactly what you should be. I said, well, a few minutes ago, you said you didn't know what I was getting paid. And now you're telling me that you do know what I'm getting paid. So which of these statements is true? And how do we go from here?

Because when I pointed out again, his words being used… You've got to be a really great listener in order to be a great negotiator. And so when I started saying these things, he was getting even more flustered, of course, because he now realizes how in the wrong he is and trying to cover something up. You know, what a tangled web we weave when we practice deceit, this was it in real life.

So this is becoming a very, very long story. All to tell you that when I started catching these people in their lies, it just solidified for me that we no longer share the same values. We might have once upon a time, or maybe they covered them up really well. To this day, I will never know for certain.

But when I am asking the right questions, when I'm listening very carefully, and when I can uncover that something is amiss. When someone's being vague, when someone's being evasive, when someone's contradicting themselves, that for me is a huge red flag that says, "Get out." And that's exactly what I did.

So when people ask me, you know, when I'm finding myself in this situation, what should I be looking for? And if you're following the advice and you're asking the questions about when is the right time for us to have this conversation or what milestones do you need to see from me in order to hit that next promotion level?

And they're being vague. They're not giving you any information. That for me, when they're giving you very cagey responses without a good context or good reason, that for me is the red flag to go, "I don't think this is ever going to change. I think this, they're going to be stringing me along forever, and is that worth me sticking around here for, or should I be brushing up my resume and start networking to find maybe an opportunity that's going to be a better fit for me in terms of my values, integrity, and how I want to be treated?"

[00:31:39] Karlee: Yeah. It's a tough position. Cause I do find that even when you're moving companies, and maybe you could speak to this for a second. One of the things I've seen as well, and I used to work in talent management in California. And so like actors, you know, they'd go into negotiations. What'd you get paid on your last TV show? Right. And when there's already such a wage gap, so, I mean, it can be said about employees salaries as well. If you're trying to negotiate based on your last salary. It's a lot harder to then close that wage gap if your last salary, as a woman, might be a lot lower than a male counterpart and their last salary.

So it's a tricky situation to try and close that.

[00:32:26] Fotini: Yeah, I would say any negotiation advice to give to anybody, and there's, the laws are really great because it's so different from one geography to another, but most places these days now make it illegal to ask that question, but that doesn't stop people from asking such questions.

Nobody should be asking you, what was your last salary? Whether you're in the acting world, whether you're in the boardroom kind of world and so on. It doesn't matter because you're not talking about that last job. You're talking about this job. You're talking about what would it take in order for me to want to do this particular job with these responsibilities. We're not comparing apples to apples anyway.

So if you want a polite way to redirect the conversation, you can say something like, “Look, that's not the job that we're talking about today. The job that we're talking about today with the requirements and the skill level and the experience that is required, I would expect this amount for it.” So, redirect instead of even getting trapped in that. Another one that works really well for that type of thing is, "Just as I'm sure you wouldn't want me sharing your confidential information here. I want to be respectful of my former employers and not discuss that stuff. But what is relevant is the job that we're talking about here today."

So if you can point it out to them very politely, that they're asking something inappropriate by saying, I want to respect the other people, just as I'd want to respect you. Now all of a sudden it's kind of hard for them to dig themselves out of that hole and say, but tell me anyway, because I want to be a jerk.

So you can frame it in a way that's quite polite and redirect.

[00:33:57] Karlee: Yeah. Interesting. The other piece and tool that I really took away from your talk, and you mentioned it earlier as well, and I want to underscore it here is the ‘power of the pause’. If you could speak to the power of the pause and negotiations and what that can do for people.

[00:34:12] Fotini: Yeah. It was born in that moment where I was really ready. Like my Mediterranean blood was boiling and I was, you know, my hands were ready to start talking for me. And I went, I don't want to give into this. I don't want to give them the excuse to call me emotional and to call me all of those things.

So I'm just going to take a second to calm down. It's like I could see myself as if I was watching from a balcony and I could see myself getting over, over-expressive and overemotional. I was like, no, no, don't do that because that's just giving him an excuse to go back into the boardroom and say she was this way and she was that way. And I didn't want to give him the satisfaction.

That's how this was born. I just didn't want to give him the satisfaction. But when I took that moment, the moment in itself was an aha moment to go, I'm going to be so in control right now. I'm going to give you no excuses to go back and say, well, this happened because she was emotional.

I'm not going to give you a chance to give me that label. But even in that moment. That's when your clarity comes back, when you can take a calming breath, when you can give yourself a moment of clarity, whether it's your positive affirmation, whether it's bringing back some kind of mantra you have, whether it's just a meditative breath to count down, you know, it's the reason why we give children timeouts. That is the common parental strategy, you know, counting to five or three or whatever it is that you do because you're giving that, that child on the other side as well as yourself a countdown to go. Okay, here's your warning that things have to change.

Give yourself that same opportunity to cool off. Give yourself that same opportunity for your brain to go, hold on, what more logical idea did I have when I was in practice mode for this? Because if you're allowing yourself to think and talk at the same time, that can get really dangerous. But when you can pause, you're giving your brain that opportunity to allow the subconscious stuff that you want to come out instead of the stuff that you have no control over. Instead of like words coming out of your mouth going, no, let me take that back. There's no taking it back. You can't put toothpaste back in the tube. So before you, you say something, take a moment. Think it through, replay it in your mind. Remember that time when you said it in front of the mirror or, you know, remember that time when you said, if they say this, here's what I'm going to say in that moment.

Remember that time that you decided you were going to take a pen and break it in half instead of say something out loud. All of those strategies that you had will come back to you when you just take a second to think things through. I mean, I won't even bore you with all of the psychology stuff and all of the things that go on in your brain, but just know that if you can just count to three, if you can just do that for a second, you're going to forget that emotional train you are on, and you're going to have a lot more clarity to start from a clean slate.

[00:37:02] Karlee: Wonderful. Well, Fotini, thank you so much for all of these tips today. I'm going to suggest that people buy your book because it is such a great, it expands on all these tools and more.

There's so many, even talking about the emotional train, you have some great tips and tools around that in your book though. So we'll direct people to get it because it's such a wonderful way to expand on our conversation today. So Fotini, if people want to follow along with you and your work, where can they find you?

[00:37:32] Fotini: They can find me pretty much everywhere. The book is available for sale anywhere books are sold. Amazon is obviously the one that people find most useful. I'm on Instagram and LinkedIn. All my social handles are @Fotiniicon. You can even sign up for a course on more of the Say Less, Get More stuff at

And there's even a free quiz if you want to find out what is your negotiation style, because the more self aware you are, the better negotiator you are. Your free negotiation style quiz is at, so you can find it there.

[00:38:08] Karlee: I know I'll be doing that quiz today, I'm sure. And looking forward to it.

Well, thank you for joining us, and audience, thank you so much for listening and taking the time to be with us here today. I look forward to seeing you again in a few weeks. Until then, I hope you remember your magic. Take care!

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