This week’s most recent Podcast and show notes discuss whether or not women can be effective negotiators. On the heels of an article that made me acutely aware, followed by a lot of in-depth soul-searching and research, the Podcast is a very real and very raw look into some of my negotiating foibles and what the cost ended up being.
The ultimate questions are: Are women effective negotiators? Are we getting what we want when we want it? Why are we giving up so much of our power in the infant stages of negotiation? How does this impact us in the boardroom and the bedroom? And, what can we do to change?
What I discovered about myself (and often women in general) during the research for this article and Podcast is that there are multiple, complex, deep-seated reasons why women aren’t as effective at negotiation as they need to be. We are the reason why we draw the short straw in so many of our business and personal dealings.
When a woman backs down in a negotiation, or doesn’t speak up in the first place, is she concerned about her reputation or is she afraid of being selfish? Yes and yes. It can be both. Females tend to be a heart-centered, relationship driven, “WE” breed. Our male counterparts, however, tend towards the domineering, unapologetic, success and/or pleasure driven “ME” breed.
We sacrifice our wants and needs and our bottom line for the greater good. We tend to want to keep the peace. We tend to lack the courage to stand up and speak our truth. We don’t want to be thought of as manipulative or greedy. We tend to not put all of our cards on the table for fear of being labeled “bitchy” or some other derogatory, sexist term.
After reading the article, I realized an undeniable and inconvenient truth: our negotiation skills have a direct correlation to how satisfied we are in both the boardroom and the bedroom. So, if lacking, it is time to do something about it.
It is time for women to be more self-centered (and unapologetic) in their negotiations. Compromising every once in a while can be a good, and even healthy, thing. But, a woman should never make a habit of losing herself and minimizing her desires for the sake of a relationship. Yet, we often do.
If I am being completely honest, I am not immune to subpar negotiation skills. Up until about 7 years ago, the idea of an impasse or any conflict in a relationship or a negotiation made me incredibly uncomfortable. I am a people pleaser and a people person, so my self-talk would sound like, “Keep the peace, Jenn. It’s not that important, Jenn. Don’t be so selfish, Jenn.” But, the outer peace sometimes came at the expense of my inner peace. And the things I was negotiating for were important. And I wasn’t being selfish. My internal dialog often caused me to settle for less than.
Less than I wanted.
Less than I needed.
Less than I deserved.
(*I share so much more about my personal journey, including my thoughts on my wedding, my home, and my professional sacrifices in the Podcast. In the interest of time, I won’t recap it here. You can listen in iTunes if you want to get the details and the uncensored scoop.)
Is any of this resonating with you so far? Have you ever sacrificed to save face? Have you ever settled for less? If so, you must be wondering what we can do about this. You must be curious about how we can hone our negotiation skills and start having some serious WINS. I was, too. So I got clear, I got real, and I did some research.
Here are my top 5 suggestions for how women can become better at negotiating.
Get crystal clear about YOUR needs, wants, and desires. You have to remove yourself from all of your other roles in order to do that effectively. For me, I had to start removing Mother-Jenn and Wife-Jenn from the equation and start thinking in terms of Jenn-Jenn. This is your time to gain clarity around your singular, self-satisfying needs, not your greater-good needs.
Pad Your Desires and Leave Room for Negotiation.
As women, we tend to ask for less than we want, telling ourselves the lie that we’ll be happy with whatever we get. Um, nope. We’ve got to level up where the asking is concerned. If you want a $3,000 raise, ask for $6,000. If you want a week in Aruba, ask for two. If you want a two-bedroom bungalow, ask for three. If you are desiring a day away to collect your thoughts, ask for an entire weekend. This leaves room for negotiation. It leaves room for you to walk away satisfied, even after a heated impasse. It gives you room to be HAPPY and FULFILLED.
Know The Difference Between a “Pencil” Desire and an “Indelible Ink” Desire
Music – particularly going to concerts and hearing live music – is important to me. My husband hates concerts. Do I need to force him to go with me in order to be happy? Does he need to change his values system in order for me to feel fulfilled? The answer is no and no. My going to concerts is an “indelible ink” desire — I am going to find a way to do it no matter what. But, him coming with me is a “pencil” desire. I do not need him there with me to have a good time. It’s a nice to have, but not a deal-breaker. In fact, I will probably have a worse time if he is there, so I find alternatives. The negotiation here is something like this: “Honey, seeing Dave Matthews is one of my favorite things to do in the summer (indelible). I know you don’t like concerts, so I know you won’t mind if I leave you with the kids to go with a group of friends (pencil).” Don’t get caught up in the “if he loved me, he would do this for me” way of thinking. It’s a lie. And, it’s childish. Make sense?
Stop Negotiating Casually
Know when. Know when to bring up that indelible desire. If it’s important to you, stop negotiating casually. The time to talk about division of housework is not as your husband is on his way out to work and in the 70th hour of his 80 hour work-week. The time to mention a raise to your boss is not when s/he just lost that major account; the account that you managed. Be smart. Know when to negotiate and what to negotiate about. And, like Kenny Rogers sang, you gotta know when to hold ’em, but you also gotta know precisely when to fold ’em. Even if you become a master negotiator someday, you are still going to lose some. But if you know how and when to negotiate, your win column will far outstretch your loss column.
Stop Saying “I Don’t Care”
Weak responses like “I don’t care” are going to net you a loss. Every. Single. Time. Not to mention the fact that phrases like “I don’t care” and “no worries” are extremely disempowering. When given a choice, SPEAK UP. Because you DO care, and you SHOULD care! These everyday situations are opportunities to flex your negotiation muscles and really hone your negotiation skills so you are well-prepared when a bigger negotiation opportunity rears its head. Because, let’s be real here, you DO care where you go to dinner, and you DO want your husband to be on time, and you DON’T want to sit on the couch instead of going to the movies. So, use your voice. Be unapologetic. Go for it!
Bonus Tip: Focus on Gratitude When You Realize You’ve Made Mistakes
I may not have gotten that promotion or that raise, but I had a flexible schedule that allowed for increased work/life balance. Focus on the positives and be grateful. The BMW might have been too much money, but your Ford is fully loaded and gets great gas mileage. Gratitude fosters feel-good motions that help diminish feelings of resentment…a critical mindset in negotiations.
I really want to hear your thoughts on this. Do you have some major life situations you wish you had handled differently? Can you relate to my personal stories in the Podcast? Keep the conversation going down in the comments section. Your insight and vulnerability might be just what another woman needs to hear in order to be braver on her journey. It really, truly does take a village.
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“Our deepest wishes are whispers of our authentic selves. We must learn to respect them. We must learn to listen.” ~ Sarah Ban Breathnach
“When we speak, we are afraid our words will not be heard or welcomed. But when we are silent, we are still afraid. So it is better to speak.” ~ Audre Lorde
“Men are taught to apologize for their weaknesses, women for their strengths.” ~Lois Wyse
“Everything is negotiable. Whether or not the negotiation is easy is another thing.” ~ Carrie Fisher
If you listen to the Podcast, you will know precisely WHY the next two pictures are included:
If you listen to the Podcast, you will also know why this image is important:
And, here you have one of my INDELIBLE DESIRES, recorded in my scrapbook for posterity’s sake in 2009. The day will come…