When you think about the word “negotiation,” what comes to mind? The classic scenario is probably a boardroom, imposing men in suits seated around a conference table, faces drawn and ready to tear each other down.
In many professional settings, negotiation is often linked to domination. The person who dominates the conversation, who speaks the loudest and the longest, seems the most likely to win the negotiation. And as most women already know, during professional settings, including meetings, it’s not us doing most of the talking.
Femininity and Negotiation
If you’re a career woman like me, chances are you’ve heard (and perhaps believed) one of the biggest myths in the professional world: that women aren’t good negotiators. Not true! Women use negotiation tactics on a daily basis: we make creative successful deals with our partners, spouses, children, bosses, clients—practically everyone in our lives.
But because we’ve been conditioned to believe we’re the “weaker” sex (and those beliefs are deeply ingrained, even if we don’t consciously acknowledge them) and because we’ve been conditioned to believe negotiation is tied to domination, we assume negotiation is inherently masculine: aggressive, forceful, and loud. The traditional definition of being feminine, on the other hand, uses words like “soft,” “gentle,” and “quiet.”
But do you really have to talk the loudest and longest to win?
HERsuasion Offers a Better Path
As a female lawyer, I spent years treating negotiations as a zero-sum game. The stakes were high: in a profession where I felt I constantly had to prove my worth, I ruthlessly did what it took to get ahead or put one over the other side. I often felt I had to be loud, forceful, and dominant in order to win—traits that were inauthentic to my personality.
I was known as “the Barracuda,” and for many years, I wore the title proudly. But the Barracuda isn’t who I was at my core. I found myself unhappy with my professional and personal relationships, burnt out by my own toxic inauthenticity.
I’m here to tell you that being a successful negotiator doesn’t mean you have to bomb the opposing party into smithereens. You can get what you want without feeling like you have to go to war for it.
There’s a better way, and it’s what I call HERsuasion. The principles behind HERsuasion allow you to ask for what you want—and get what you want—without having to be overly aggressive or inauthentic to who you are.
Before we dive into HERsuasion, I want to clarify how this philosophy relates to what it means to be a woman. There’s no ONE way to be a woman, and being female or feminine doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re going to be soft-spoken and demure. What I’m referring to are the traits that have been historically identified as feminine, and, more importantly, the traits identified with “feminine” energy. Every one of us has both masculine and feminine energy, and it has very little, if anything, to do with sex or gender.
HERsuasion is about embracing “feminine” traits to find an easier, more successful path to negotiation.
HERsuasion is about embracing “feminine” traits to find an easier, more successful path to negotiation. Although Women on Purpose is designed to help and support women find this path, these principles apply to everyone, regardless of gender.
An Introduction to HERsuasion
You’re going to hear much more about HERsuasion in the future, but here are a few key principles to get you thinking about the difference between HERsuasion and our conventional views of negotiation.
Reframe negotiation. First and foremost, HERsuasion requires a reframing of negotiation to move away from violent, warlike imagery. Not every negotiation has to be approached as a battle or end in a knockdown, drag-out fight. In fact, negotiation isn’t about beating up your adversary at all. The best negotiations are about cooperating with the other side to get even better results. Drop that sword—you don’t need it.
Learn to listen. When you’re talking in a negotiation, you inherently aren’t listening. The two are literally incompatible. HERsuasion invites you to listen far more often than you speak. Listening not only gives the other side a chance to feel heard, but it also allows you to understand where they’re coming from. What’s the other party trying to say? What’s the pain point behind their demands? Identifying what it is they really want out of this negotiation will help your strategy in finding a solution. But you can’t hear the other side if you’re the one doing all the talking.
Give the other party a chance to share their feelings, and don’t be afraid of silence. During pauses in the conversation, the person you’re negotiating with may be prompted to share more about how they’re feeling and what they want. That’s valuable information you can use to reach a mutually beneficial solution.
Build bridges. When you absolutely abhor someone, would you be open to their suggestions or try to reach a beneficial agreement with them? Heck no! We are naturally more receptive to people who act professionally. It’s helpful to work on being (authentically) more approachable to whoever it is you’re negotiating with. That’s different from telling you that as a woman, you need to smile more or be polite (you don’t). However, if you can make a genuine effort to build an amicable relationship with the other party, you’ll not only decrease the stress you experience during negotiation, but you’ll also make it easier to arrive at a mutually beneficial agreement and beyond. One way to start building bridges is through open communication that begins to build rapport.
Leave room for creativity. A win for you doesn’t have to mean that the other side leaves the room in tears. If you don’t hyperfocus on just one way to get what you want, you can avoid the pitfall of attachment in your negotiations. That may require you to get creative or even redefine what a “win” looks like, but the end result is often an even better solution for all parties involved. Flexibility and responsiveness are more likely to help you get what you want, more often than not.
Listening, building bridges, making authentic connections, and being flexible are all traits that are identified as “feminine” in today’s society. You may not be using these strategies in your negotiations today, but you absolutely have the ability to tap into them. Again, it’s not about gender. We all have the ability to use these skills of feminine negotiation. And when we do, we become extremely effective at getting what we want.
Interested in learning more about HERsuasion to level up your negotiation skills? Connect with me to chat about working together!