Negotiation is an important skill in both personal and professional settings. It requires an understanding of human behaviour, effective communication skills, and the ability to create win-win solutions. It is a complex process that is influenced by various factors, one of them being gender.
There are many differences in the way men and women negotiate. The biggest being that many women don’t negotiate at all. These differences are often attributed to childhood socialisation, cultural norms and expectations, and genetics.
According to Linda Babcock, Ph.D., a professor of economics at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, it’s important to realise that women’s reluctance to negotiate is not because of a deficiency on their part, but rather, women are acting reasonably for career advancement.
Interviewers tend to have behavioural expectations; men to be assertive and in charge, and women to be agreeable and ‘nice’. Women who step outside these ‘assigned’ roles during negotiations are viewed more negatively than those who stick to them, but this doesn’t mean that they should change their ways or stop trying to negotiate – rather, they should play to their strengths.
Compared with men, women tend to be more cooperative, empathetic, and ethical – traits that are linked with an increase in long-term value for companies. Women may instinctively think they need to hide their emotions and stay tough during negotiations, but newer research suggests that a women’s approach makes sense in today’s world and that by showing more warmth and empathy, the chances of striking a deal are much higher.
There’s a saying that goes “when it comes to negotiating, it’s best to leave your emotions at the door”. This is a myth, as not having emotions isn’t something we as humans can do – emotions are not something we can turn on and off. Emotions affect our body, thinking, and behaviour, and the challenge is learning how to stimulate helpful emotions in those with whom we negotiate and within ourselves.
Emotions can be a great asset in negotiation, with positive emotions having the ability to make it much easier to meet the interests of both parties and enhance a relationship. However, there is a danger that you may feel ‘too’ comfortable and thereby, run the risk of making unwise decisions or “leaving money on the table”. The best way to avoid this is to ‘check’ positive emotions with both your head and gut before making a decision.
Emotions can also be obstacles to negotiation. They can divert attention from the matter at hand, damage a relationship, and can be used to exploit the party who unintentionally shows areas of vulnerability.
Rather than getting caught up in the emotions, attention should be turned to what generates those emotions. In their book, Beyond Reason, Roger Fisher and Dan Shapiro talk about addressing core concerns, which refer to human wants that are important to almost everyone in virtually every negotiation, including:
- Appreciation: Feeling as though your thoughts, feelings, and actions have merit.
- Affiliation: Being treated as a colleague as opposed to an adversary.
- Autonomy: Having your freedom to decide on important matters respected.
- Status: Having your standing, where deserved, given full recognition.
- Role: Being able to define your role in a way that you find fulfilling.
Before going into a negotiation, identify which are most important to you and how you can stimulate positive emotions in others by meeting these core concerns.
Successful negotiation requires preparation on several fronts:
- Prepare the substance of the negotiation: Facts, goal, and the end product.
- Prepare the process: Steps of the conversation, environment, and logistics.
- Prepare emotionally: Face your own emotions (stay calm) and get ready to deal with the emotions of others (through addressing core concerns).
Most of us see negotiation as inherently confrontational with two possible outcomes: ‘our’ position or ‘theirs’. By shifting our mindset to one of cooperation, preparing ourselves adequately, and playing to our unique strengths, we can make negotiations a more positive experience for everyone involved and create mutually beneficial outcomes.