If you’re struggling under a load of credit card debt, you may be able to pay it off faster if you can negotiate better terms. But while asking your card issuer for a lower interest rate or a partial settlement can be challenging for anyone, it can seem like an impossible mountain to climb if you are an introvert.
“Most people avoid conflict, but I’ve found in my research that introverts avoid it more,” says Jennifer Kahnweiler, author of “The Genius of Opposites: How Introverts and Extroverts Achieve Extraordinary Results Together.”
However, introverts can be great negotiators when they “stop trying to be like extroverts and rely on their inherent strengths,” Kahnweiler says. If you’d rather visit the dentist than haggle over money, here’s how introversion can be used to your advantage.
1. Understand your value. “One thing that would help introverts is to be aware that the company they’re calling wants their business,” says Laurie Helgoe, author of “Introvert Power: Why Your Inner Life is Your Hidden Strength.” Not only do they want to keep you as a customer, but they want you to pay your debt. Let the issuer know that a lower rate or better terms will help you to fulfill those obligations so everybody wins.
2. Give yourself a reality check. While you might imagine your card issuer laughing in your face or slamming down the phone, that’s unlikely to happen. In fact, if you’re getting better offers from other credit cards, you should expect to get a better deal. “If I have another credit card company that’s offering me a much lower rate, it’s reasonable for me to expect my card company will match that to keep me as a customer,” Helgoe says.
3. Use silence to your advantage. Since Patricia Weber is an introvert and her husband is an extrovert, it seemed natural that he would do most of the couple’s negotiating — until his openness with a car salesman about their immediate need for a car cost them a better deal. As a result of that experience, Weber now does all of the family bargaining. Stating what you want and then being silent may leave an extrovert uncomfortable, which could lead to a better offer. Negotiation is all about power, says Weber, author of “Communication Toolkit for Introverts.” “If you can use that silent pause, you gain the power back.”
4. Pick the right time. One of the key traits of introverts is that they need alone time to recharge. “We are like a battery and stimulation will drain that battery,” says Helgoe. The worst time to call your card issuer is when you’re tired or drained from other interactions. Instead, spend some time alone until you’re feeling good. Then pick up the phone when you’re bolstered and ready to talk.
5. Separate the problem from the people. If an introvert is speaking with a fast-talking extrovert, it can be easy to lose focus on the goal, which is to get better credit card terms. However, by firmly stating your objective, whether it’s to reduce your interest rate or come up with a workout arrangement, you’re less likely to be distracted (and drained) by the other party’s communication style, Weber says.
6. Play a role. “There are a lot of actors and comedians who are introverts. The role gives them permission to let loose,” Helgoe says. Take a page from them and take on a different persona when you’re making the phone call. While you don’t want to give a false name or false identifying information, “pretend you’re somebody who is very bold,” Helgoe says.
7. Practice makes perfect. Not only can you rehearse how the interaction might go in your mind, but you can record yourself asking for a lower rate to hear how you come across. “I find it very helpful to say the words aloud,” Kahnweiler says. You can also practice with a friend or relative you trust. To give you more confidence when making the call, write out talking points or a script you can refer to when you’re on the phone.
8. Take a pause. When your credit card issuer tells you what they can do for you, you don’t have to immediately respond. Thank them for working with you and ask if you can call back tomorrow after you’ve thought about it, suggests Kahnweiler. That gives you time to regroup and process the information, and it might give your issuer time to come up with a better offer.
9. Get it in writing. Whether you’re an introvert or extrovert, make sure you get the new terms in writing, says Mary Riley, a certified financial professional from Consumer Credit Counseling Service of West Georgia/East Alabama. That advice goes whether you’re agreeing to a lower interest rate or a debt settlement for less than what you owe. “You don’t want to pay money on an account only to find out a couple of months later you still owe the debt,” Riley says.
In a world in which extroverts make the most noise, introverts can use their unique traits to make a negotiation go their way. “Introverts like to do that internal work and are often more prepared when they go live,” Helgoe says. “I think that definitely can be an advantage.”
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