To Be Successful In A Negotiation, Do Women Need To Learn To “Lean In”?

Women need to learn how to create more value during a negotiation
Women need to learn how to create more value during a negotiation
Image Credit: European External Action Service

Negotiating is hard. Negotiating when you are a woman is even harder. Historically women have not been as aggressive as men. They have been willing to settle for what is offered to them. However, to truly be successful negotiators women need to start to think about what a man would be able to achieve in their position. What women need to start to do in negotiations is to start to employ more assertive behavior.

Why Don’t Women Ask For More?

The reason that women are not as assertive during a negotiation as they should be is because of the way that society tends to look at assertive women. So what’s the problem here? It’s actually pretty simple. Men do what we think that they should be doing. They tend to focus on their careers and this allows them to come across as being decisive and driven. However, when women do the same thing they cross some boundaries and this ends up violating the way that we think of women as being caregivers who are sensitive.

What this means for women is that they end up realizing that if they display assertive behavior through negotiation styles and negotiating techniques, they are going to end up getting punished. They fear that they will end up getting disliked by the people that they work with. The sad truth is that studies show that they are correct. Workers have been shown to be less willing to work with women who displayed assertive behavior. Additionally, these women were thought to be less nice than women who were not assertive. The end result of all of this is that women tend to be less aggressive during a negotiation simply because they are afraid that they are going to experience a very real backlash against what is seen as traditionally unfeminine behavior.

Women Need To Think Personally And Then Act Communally

So how can a women become a more successful negotiator when they have to deal with all of these society issues? One way that they can accomplish this is by using what are called relational accounts. When a woman is negotiating, she can use explanations for negotiation requests that seem legitimate and display a concern for the other side. Another thing that women can do is to substitute “we” for “I” – this will make their requests appear to be coming from a group and not them personally.

In order to be successful in a negotiation, what women need to learn how to do is to combine niceness with insistence. Another way of looking at this is to view a woman negotiator as being relentlessly pleasant. Women can accomplish this by expressing concern and appreciation for the other side, drawing on common interests, and approaching the negotiation with the other side as a form of a problem-solving task.

Removing Bias From the Workplace

What women negotiators need to understand is that using a cooperative approach is the best way to achieve understanding of the other side and discovering new sources of value. Women often ask themselves why must women, and not men, bend over backward to appear likable and communal in a negotiation? This sure seems unfair. Rest assured that it is; however, adhering to biased rules and expectations is still the clearest path to negotiating success for most women right now.

The good news is that there are signs of change. Women are starting to act more assertively and at the same time men are starting to look for gender bias during a negotiation. These men need to take the time to look for any bias that may be present in how the negotiations are currently being conducted and then take steps to weed them out.

What All Of This Means For You

The world of negotiations is gender blind. We’ll sit down to negotiate with just about anyone. What this means is that both boys and girls want to be able to get the best possible deal out of each negotiation that they participate in. However, this is where things can start to get tricky. Traditionally women have been less assertive than men when it comes to negotiating and this can result in them not being able to reach the same type of deal as a man can.

A fundamental question is why don’t women ask for more during a principled negotiation? The answer is actually quite simple. Men are expected to be hard-driving and demand more from the other side. Women are expected to be more caring and compassionate and asking for more seems to be out of character for them. When they become assertive, coworkers say that they don’t want to work with them. The solution to this problem is for women to use relational accounts. When they do this they include explanations in their negotiating. Women also have to learn how to combine niceness with insistence. Women have to make these changes because this is how the world currently is. Things are changing and things should get better in the future.

Women are an important part of how business gets done. They can play a critical role in negotiations. Traditionally they have not been able to get the best deals because they have felt as though they can’t be as assertive as they would like to be. Things are changing and people are starting to realize that women should be allowed to be as assertive as man are during the negotiating process. The end result of these changes is that women are going to be able to create deals that are as good as or even better than men can.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Negotiating Skills™

Question For You: Do you think that it is possible for a woman to be too assertive during a negotiation?

Click here to get automatic updates when The Accidental Negotiator Blog is updated.

P.S.: Free subscriptions to The Accidental Negotiator Newsletter are now available. Learn what you need to know to do the job. Subscribe now: Click Here!

What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

In the world of negotiating, despite all of the different principled negotiation styles and negotiating techniques that get used, there are a number of tactics that have achieve classic status. One such technique is called the “good cop / bad cop” approach. You’ll encounter this when you sit down to negotiate and one member of the other side says that they really want to be able to reach an agreement with you and at the same time another member of the other side decides to present you with an outrageous, even insulting, offer. A member of the other side urges them to make a concession. This makes that member of the other side seem like a trusted friend. You find yourself taking his advice and working hard to bridge your gap with person who made the insulting offer, even proposing concessions you never intended to make. Guess what – you just fell for the good cop / bad cop tactic.