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March 24, 2016

How to Negotiate with Different Genders

Communication

Jeff Cochran

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Successful negotiations often depend on how well you relate to the other person. For example, many people wonder how to negotiate with different genders. If you find yourself negotiating with people of different genders on a regular basis, there are tips you can follow to ensure everyone walks away friends.

Empathy vs. Aggression

In today’s culture, striking a balance between empathy and aggression is vital, but can be difficult. For example, women are often taught not to be assertive. They are told that assertion is the same thing as aggression and that it makes them seem uncaring. Therefore, women sometimes take an overly empathetic approach to negotiations and don’t push for what they want or need.

On the other hand, men are often taught that aggression shows strength, while too much empathy shows weakness. They are told that if they are too empathetic, they will lose negotiations, letting themselves and others down. Thus, some men “play hardball” more than they should.

The key to solving both these quandaries is to find your personal balance between empathy and aggression. To do so, analyze the type of negotiation you are in. If you want to sell a product or service to a client, for instance, you need to find points of agreement and empathize with his or her needs, rather than push for a decision.

Establishing Authority

Establishing authority is another tricky part of negotiating with different genders. Authority equals control, and exerting too much control could be seen as arrogant or demanding. Both genders tend to have a difficult time with this, although women are often more reluctant to take seats at the head of the table, make wide gestures, or use up space.

Experts agree that there are key ways men and women should establish authority without looking aggressive. For example, spread your materials out instead of keeping them in a small, neat stack. As much as possible, avoid reading from your material; this can make you look unprepared and not confident. Maintain friendly eye contact. Use silence to emphasize a point or give people time to think through what you have said.

Listen

When most people think of negotiations, they think of talking. Talking is a big part of any negotiation, but listening is even more vital. Both genders can be accused of not listening, or of using silence to plan what they want to say next. Learn how to actively listen, perhaps through professional negotiation training. When the other person is talking, maintain eye contact, nod, or say things like, “Tell me more about that” to show engagement. If you didn’t hear or understand something, be honest and ask for it to be repeated.

Don’t Bow to Stereotypes

Don’t let stereotypes influence your success in negotiations. If you are a woman who needs to be more assertive, ask for tips or assertiveness training from other women you trust. Seek opportunities to negotiate with men, and learn from key phrases they might use such as “I think” or “you know.” If you are a man, don’t be afraid to compete as much with women as you do other males. Learn from women as well – for example, women are less likely to “wing it” during negotiations, and this can help them succeed.

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