Women and negotiations: how to counter the roadblocks?

In an earlier post, we had described the three categories of negotiations women have to make in the workplace – for establishing work-life balance, for professional learning opportunities, and for managing or growing their teams effectively. We also listed some of the barriers they face in their negotiations:

  • Of being perceived as aggressive, uncooperative, and unpopular.
  • Experiencing strong emotions like anger, worry, anxiety, and sadness.
  • Facing resistance in the form of undermining of their competence, and volatile behavior.

The gender differences in these instances are real. Research proves it over and over. So, what can women do to counter the barriers and negotiate effectively?

  1. Harness gender stereotypes. Women who negotiate come across as being aggressive because stereotypes depict them as being nurturing, warm, and accommodating. Anything that goes against this perception is unwelcome. So, coming across strong and uncompromising in a negotiation can backfire.

The best way to counter this: be both. Be accommodating but hold your boundary. Be understanding yet advocate for your needs. Be warm and firm. How? First show that you understand the needs of the other person, and then make a more assertive ask. Show how your ask will benefit the team or organization. For example, frame the ask for an additional staff member to help your team perform more efficiently (rather than help you personally).

  1. Use the stress to prepare. Anticipating that a negotiation may not go well shows that you hold multiple perspectives about the conversation. What do you imagine the other person saying, which causes you anxiety? List down such possibilities and think through how you would respond to the resistance. That way, you can identify setbacks and tackle them.

Another pointer: what would it mean for you to distance from the strong emotions that arise in this process? If you can preempt the setbacks, then you can identify how they will make you feel. Think of strategies that’ll help you calm down – deep breathing, drinking water, putting pressure between your fingertips and focusing on that, etc.

  1. Build your resilience. Setbacks can be a learning experience. While they are discouraging, ask yourself what wisdom or new information does each roadblock hold? What is it teaching you about the process of negotiation or your negotiator? How can you use this new knowledge to learn and then renegotiate? This attitude helps build grit and involves the deliberate practice of the skill of negotiation. And know that successful negotiations take time. Stick with it.

Like with any other skill, you can get better at negotiation too. Only if you pause to consider what you learn about yourself and the process. That’s where your ammunition lies. Ready?

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