Most of us know exactly what we want. We want a job that we love, we want to travel the world, we want a fat bank account that allows us to live as we please, and some of us want a dedicated companion to share it all with. Despite knowing exactly what we want out of life, many of us have a problem letting it be known and negotiating relentlessly to get it.

Recently, I wrote about my experience underselling myself just to secure a freelance gig. Despite the fact that the editor approached me and was familiar with my work, when it came time to quote my price, I operated from a position of fear. I didn’t want her to find someone else for the job, so I cut my price…despite not wanting to.

My experience isn’t unique. Although Americans aren’t accustomed to haggling, American women are especially prone to not asking for what they want. According to a recent survey from the career networking site LinkedIn, only 26-percent of women feel comfortable negotiating for a higher salary, compared to 40-percent of their male counterparts. Why the disparity? Many industry professionals believe that women are more averse to negotiating because we value our relationships—both professional and personal—and don’t want to mess them up.

A recent Forbes article by Meghan Casserly explains:

“Women are certainly less confident than men when it comes to negotiations,” says Selena Rezvani, FW contributor and the author of the new book PUSHBACK: How Smart Women Ask—And Stand Up—For What They Want. “A big part of that problem for women is the belief that relationships should trump agenda.” In other words, she says women are concerned that negotiating—or any sign of resistance—with a manager could tarnish a long-term relationship. When confronted with that scenario, many women choose to forgo their own agenda (whether a salary increase or desired promotion) in order to protect workplace relationships.

So how can we break out of being afraid to ask for what we want?

Salary.com gives a few tips:

Don’t be afraid to negotiate: If you want to get what you want, you have to be open to negotiating in the first place. Don’t shy away from the process before it even begins.

Raise your expectations: Don’t just be “grateful” for what you can get, recognize that your skills, knowledge, and experience are valuable.

Know your worth: Do you research and find out the going rate for your particular skill set. Don’t go in without being properly informed.

Be Positive, not pessimistic: If you walk into any negotiation thinking you’ll be turned down, you probably will be. Relax and expect to get exactly what you want.

Practice: Before you go into any negotiation, practice what you will say. Once you actually begin you’ll feel much more relaxed and ready to ask for what you want.

Whether you are fresh out of college and thinking about taking your first job, have been with your employer for years, or you are a seasoned freelancer trying to attract new clients, negotiating for what you’re worth is not only a shrewd business move that will likely garner you more money, it’ll help you feel more empowered.

Have you ever had problems negotiating on the job?

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  • Years ago, I was offered a job at a new company. I told the human resources lady exactly what salary I was looking for. She hemmed and hawed (sp?), and I quietly sat on the phone. After a few seconds, she said ‘Ok.’ The key to negotiation is state what you want, and BE QUIET! They will figure out whether you’re worth what you’re asking for, and if you’re willing to decrease the value, do so. If not, they will most likely say ‘I’ll get back to you.’ You say ‘thank you’ and keep it moving. I got the salary that I asked and all was well (until I had to negotiate for my next job).

    In other situations, you HAVE to know what you want and ask for what you want, or they’ll screw you over every.single.time. Go for yours!