For women who are seeking a raise, Ellen Pompeo has a few pieces of advice.
The Grey’s Anatomy star, whose massive salary recently made headlines — she’s the highest-earning actress on a TV drama, making $575,000 per episode, and films 24 a year — spoke with In Style about the power and importance of negotiating in honor of Equal Pay Day.
“Ladies, when asking for a raise, always start with the positive. A compliment is nice. ‘I deserve X because of Y and Z.’ You know, you gotta have reasons — you gotta have stuff to back up what you’re asking for and why. Numbers always help,” said Pompeo, 48.
From Pompeo’s perspective, there’s strength in being willing to walk away if you don’t get what you want.
“The only time you ever really have power in asking for anything is if you’re willing to walk away,” she explained. “When you’re asking for a raise, you’ve got to be willing to walk out the door if you don’t get what you want. If you’re not willing to walk out the door, then you’re going to get f—–.”
WATCH: Ellen Pompeo Scores a $20 Million Salary Win While the Pay Gap Continues in Hollywood
The ABC leading lady also stands behind honesty. “One hundred percent honest with yourself, 98 percent honest with the rest of the world. In being honest, it’s best to sort of start with the positive,” she shared. “Find something positive and lead with that, and then get into the more truthful parts of it.”
Though millions of Grey’s diehards tune in weekly to watch Pompeo star on the drama as Dr. Meredith Grey, she has learned to put people’s opinions in perspective — and recommends others do the same.
“Don’t be worried about what people think. Unless, of course, what you’re going to say is an insult. Then be worried about what they think,” Pompeo quipped.
She also implored people to “stop trying to be perfect” and admitted: “I’m not perfect, you’re not perfect, and no one can expect us to be. The closest we can get is to be true and respectful to each other.”
“Be okay with your flaws. We all have them. Stop trying to speak perfect, look perfect, act perfect,” said Pompeo, who encouraged women to take a cue from male co-workers. “Men don’t try to be perfect.”
Though Pompeo takes home a lucrative salary, “the definition of success, I think, is different for everybody,” she told In Style. “That’s the most important thing to note. But my definition of success is happiness.”
- Want to keep up on the latest from PEOPLE? Sign up for our daily newsletter to get our best stories of the day delivered straight to your inbox.
In January, Pompeo was heralded as “TV’s $20 Million Woman” in her Hollywood Reporter cover interview, in which she credited Grey’s series creator Shonda Rhimes as the one who “empowered” her to know her worth and assert herself.
“Maybe it’s my Irish Catholic upbringing, but you never want to [be perceived as] too greedy,” she said. “Or maybe it’s just that as women, that’s our problem; a guy wouldn’t have any problem asking for $600,000 an episode. And as women, we’re like, ‘Oh, can I ask for that? Is that OK?’ I’d call Shonda and say, ‘Am I being greedy?’ But CAA compiled a list of stats for me, and Grey’s has generated nearly $3 billion for Disney. When your face and your voice have been part of something that’s generated $3 billion for one of the biggest corporations in the world, you start to feel like, ‘OK, maybe I do deserve a piece of this.’ ”