Women and negotiation

Joe from United Kingdom asked:

"What are the negotiation challenges women should be prepared for?"

A Negotiation Expert Answered:

We could have our way in the commercial world today, there would be no difference between men and women in the negotiation room. History has shown the world that a women can be every bit as capable a negotiator as a man - take the example of (love her or hate her) Britain s "Iron Lady" Margaret Thatcher. A number of our clients senior negotiators are women, women who have earned their seniority with hard work and achievement. We dont believe that there is a difference of capability between men and women in their ability to negotiate. Despite this, we do hear some women say that they feel they need to achieve more than a man to gain the same reward and recognition.

We would like to suggest to you that the biggest difference between the two sexes may lurk in the minds of negotiators. And since our perception shapes our reality, we need to be conscious of and manage our own and the other partys perceptions. A very similar question could be how to handle the perceptions surrounding a junior negotiator (with the relevant skills), facing a senior negotiator. The junior negotiator would do well to be aware of their counterpartys view of themselves. A strong determinant of perception is that of our cultural background. In North America for example, women are generally respected as negotiators. By comparison, there are relatively fewer female negotiators in the Middle East - though our senior consultants have noticed a positive recent trend towards women gaining status and responsibility in negotiations in cities such as Dubai in the UAE.

If we could offer some practical advice to women (and men!) who wish to succeed in the negotiation domain, it would start with how they perceive themselves. If you really put a small value upon yourself, rest assured that the world will not raise your price. Fortunately there are many routes that enable us to gain an enhanced self image consistent with being a competent, capable and confident negotiator. One such route that can yield dramatic results in perception and feeling in a short space of time is offered by a field of human development known as NLP. Once you are able to enhance your own self image, the self that you will project will command greater respect and co-operation from those with whom you negotiate.

We stress the importance of understanding the other party. So how do you understand more about the other persons culture? If they come from a different cultural background to you, start reading up on their culture. If you know someone who shares their cultural background with whom you are friendly - invite this person out to lunch and ask them questions about how they perceive their culture being different to yours, and what customs and traditions you should respect to avoid offending, and instead win their respect and co-operation.

A number of studies have investigated differences between the genders. We have as of yet not come across any which are conclusive enough to make decisive decisions on the differences between the sexes in negotiations. Perhaps it is worth referring to the research conducted into the field of "Emotional Intelligence" - by Daniel Goleman and others. It has been found during CT scans, that when confronted with a problem, women tend to have better communication across the corpus callosum (the bundle of nerves linking left and right hemispheres of the brain). This allows more connections and better communication between different areas of the brain - ie. more integrated whole brain thinking. By contrast, men tended to have more concentrated activity in certain parts of the brain. If this were to be true as a general trend, how could we take advantage of this information in a negotiation context? If women are able to make more connections between ideas and use more whole brain thinking, this would suggest women should have a prominent role in the essential creative brainstorming phase of negotiation preparation. If men do have more concentrated attention to single areas, then this should recommend men to structure the options generated from the brainstorm session in order to make them more viable calculated business propositions.

So in summary, since our self perceptions have a formative impact on how others perceive us, we need like to encourate the reader to start by assessing and challenging their perceptions of themselves as a starting point. We should also never underrate the importance of our negotiation context - which includes the cultural backgrounds of the people with whom we are negotiating.

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