Ruth Bader Ginsburg's Guide to Negotiating Like a Pro

Ruth Bader Ginsburg and other female Supreme Court Justices

Public Domain: photo credit Steve Petteway, photographer for the Supreme Court of the United States.

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Leah Thomas866
June 14, 2024 at 9:42PM UTC

Everybody knows Ruth Bader Ginsburg. 

The badass supreme court justice has been paving the way for women and equality since well before she became the second female justice in 1993 under President Clinton. 

She was the first female tenured professor at Columbia University, and the director of the Women’s Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties Union before being appointed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia in 1980. During her career as an attorney, she fought six notable gender equality cases before the Supreme Court. Sitting on it was simply her destiny. 

The Supreme Court Justice is nothing short of remarkable, and we can learn a lot from her tenacity, her perseverance... and her negotiating skills. We’ve outlined a few tips for negotiation that come from Ruth Bader Ginsburg herself.

1. Approach negotiation in a peaceful way.

“If you want to influence people, you want them to accept your suggestions, you don't say, 'You don't know how to use the English language,' or 'How could you make that argument?' It will be welcomed much more if you have a gentle touch than if you are aggressive.” 

Bader Ginsburg does not recommend being aggressive when it comes to negotiation. If you want others to see your side, they must first care about your side. And they are less likely to do so if your approach is aggressive, rather than friendly. Work with them to develop empathy for your own opinions and beliefs, then attempt to get them to cooperate with you.

2. Do not make generalizations about others when making decisions.

“I am fearful, or suspicious, of generalizations. They cannot guide me reliably in making decisions about particular individuals,” RBG has said.

This quote can be applied to a lot of current events in our society today. Generalizations are unhealthy assumptions we make about others based on people we deem to be similar to them. When it comes to negotiating, making assumptions can be dangerous. 

Whether you’re about to make an assumption about the person you are negotiating with, or you’re making a negotiation based on an assumption you’ve made of other people involved, your decision making is likely to be flawed. And depending on the subject matter, others could truly be negatively affected. Approach each negotiation with a fresh and objective mind.

3. Know exactly who you should be negotiating with.

“If you're going to change things, you have to be with the people who hold the levers,” RBG said.

The Supreme Court Justice recommends that, when negotiating, you must be speaking to the right people, or the effort is mute. Make sure you are focusing your energy on those who have the power to make the changes you are fighting for. 

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