He Speaks, She Speaks

A gender communication specialist unravels the mystery of how men and women communicate.

Who negotiates better, men or women?

Who negotiates better, men or women?

Who negotiates better, men or women? On one hand, some may argue that men have a more competitive nature, are more aggressive, understand how to use power to their advantage, and appear more business savvy than women. On the other hand, others may argue women bring the relational aspect into a negotiation and look to create a win-win for both parties.

But does a woman's need to maintain the relationship impact her desire to fully negotiate? The desire to be nice to not hurt anyone's feelings or look too selfish even when the things she's asking for are rightfully hers may influence what a woman asks for or feels she deserves. Gender does impact the negotiation process. Assumptions about who's the "better" negotiator and other such factors can affect the process and, ultimately, the outcome of a negotiation.

Why Negotiate?

Negotiating is a way to ask for, discuss, and arrive at a settlement hopefully what you set out to get. When someone else has something that we want or controls what we desire, negotiating is a way to exchange ideas or products to meet our needs or wishes.

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U.S. culture teaches us that prices for items that we see in stores should not be questioned; there's no bargaining here. Negotiating is acceptable on only a few set items, such as the price of a home or car or a job's salary.

Most other cultures around the world have learned that the prices on almost everything can and should be negotiated. Just about anything can be negotiated.

Whether we realize it or not, we're negotiating all the time from how many cupcakes you need to bring to the school's bake sale, to the how and when of your first sexual encounter with a new partner, to who's getting the new office furniture. We even negotiate with ourselves.

Who is the better Negotiator? Men or Women?

A stereotype holds that women are bad at negotiating, whereas men are great negotiators. Because of this, women often believe that they don't have the skills to successfully negotiate. If women act assertively and work for what they want, they may fear getting labeled negatively for acting outside society's expectations. Even worse, if you buy into this hype, you may set yourself up to act as if all this hype is true. It's a self-fulfilling prophecy. Unfortunately, the person you are negotiating with man or woman has been exposed to society's same assumptions and will react to you accordingly.

For example, imagine that a woman employee approaches a male supervisor. He's already thinking that women are not good negotiators and will react to her in that manner (no need to give in she won't fight, she'll walk away with less and be happy, throw her a couple hundred bucks and we're done). Same goes for a woman approaching another woman to negotiate.

When the supervisor negotiates with a man, he reacts according to that hype, too (this will be tough, let's see how he plays the game, he'll ask for everything).

Code switch: Recognize that you and the person on the other side may have some assumptions about women's ability to negotiate. Move beyond the stereotypes. Prepare by knowing your interests and options, and knowing the other person's interests and options, too.

Adapted from Audrey's co-authored Code Switching: How to Talk so Men will Listen

Audrey Nelson is an international corporate communication consultant, trainer, author, and keynote speaker.


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