I can do that!

I can do that!

Tell me your story and I will tell you why you are a great negotiator

It’s Friday morning and I’m in the middle of an interview for a podcast about women and negotiation. Two very friendly, clever and highly committed women have taken it upon themselves to interview a range of people about particular issues concerning gender equality in the workplace. As I speak, I notice one of them smiling to herself and I wonder, if I said something funny? “Well, it’s just that I think I have probably made all the mistakes you just mentioned” The interview started, as they often do when we talk about gender and negotiation, with looking at some of the pitfalls and the classic mistakes we all make, particularly when negotiating on our own behalf; being too modest in our demands and reducing our proposals before we even get started, or getting angry and personally offended when we get a resounding ‘no’ to our requests, just to mention a few. “I always try to find a realistic level for my demands, but I see now that this will give me so much less room to maneuver and cheat the other person of the pleasure of making me offer concessions!” She smiles and shakes her head, and makes a mental note to start with the ambitious version of her wishes and wants the next time she negotiates with a client.

As we move on, we get to the best part: how to deal with the classic obstacles in negotiations on your own behalf? As I list the helpful strategies of spending time preparing the negotiation and influencing the other, communicating in the constructive manner of asking relevant questions, finding many possible solutions, respecting the other person’s story and keeping a focus on the issues and not on egos, her smile broadens once again. “But I actually do all these things already!” and this is an incredibly important realization. Now it’s my turn to smile because I know that this young woman has truly learnt something, not only from her mistakes but from her successes. But we had to dig deep and talk at length about what works in negotiation, before she began to see herself as an accomplished negotiator. Not an infallible one, no one is, but someone with a whole range of tools she already uses and can now use strategically.

One of the very best things about being a negotiation advisor is to help others see, that they are in fact much better negotiators than they often think. Particularly women need to understand, that the skills you should be cultivating as a negotiator are ones that are, in fact, typically associated with how women communicate and work. Being an empathetic person, who takes an interest in others, also when they don’t agree. Being creative and consistently looking for solutions that will work for all. Being less concerned with boosting her own ego and more focused on moving the process along and constructing the agreement. These and other traits that we have been conditioned to think of as ‘feminine’ are in fact invaluable skills for all negotiators, men as well as women.

So even if you think a negotiation didn’t go as you expected, maybe you didn’t get what you were hoping for, then the experience will also without a doubt contain a lot ‘right moves’, that you can use again. And again. Because negotiating on your own behalf is an ongoing business. Using the skills you already have and adding some knowledge about the obstacles a lot of women also face, then you will become even better at doing what you already do well.