Are You Afraid to Negotiate?
Negotiation is manipulation
I get so anxious when I negotiate
I’m afraid I’m going to be taken advantage of
I’m no good at negotiating
I have to negotiate for my job, but I don’t like it
I’m always worried about what I’ve missed and what the other side will think
These are all statements I have heard over the years from my female clients, students, and participants in my workshops.
Surveys of professional women point to similar expressions of a fear or dislike of negotiation. Fear of negotiation is usually based on several limiting beliefs, including the way many women tend to perceive the word “negotiation”. Recent research shows that even the word “negotiation” evokes a negative reaction in many women.
Women See It Differently
Although there are certainly some men who don’t like to negotiate, far more men than women are excited by negotiation, enjoy it and look forward to it. Men are more likely to see negotiation as a game, one they can win or lose. Many men are excited by the prospect of winning such a game, and although some might fear the prospect of losing, many men see there is something to be achieved and skills to master.
Women are far more likely to see negotiation as a relationship, one that can be developed, fixed, damaged or broken. I witnessed this contrast in stark reality every year in the negotiation course I taught to law students, as the gender mix of students was 50-50. Male students were more likely to align with a competitive or adversarial view of negotiation; female students with a collaborative or relational view.
Women often don’t see opportunities to negotiate, or an opportunity to shape or influence a favourable result. In their book, Everyday Negotiation, Deborah Kolb and Judith Williams state that as women,
We let opportunities to negotiate slip by us unclaimed or unnoticed. Cramped by circumstance, with no magic up our sleeve, we don’t consider negotiation a possibility. We just make do and move on, not realizing that we might have bargained. Often, from lack of training or experience, we fail to recognize that we are in the midst of a negotiation until it is too late to change the outcome.
Here’s the Truth:
Negotiation is a learned skill – and many women simply have not been taught or learned how to negotiate effectively.
Fear of negotiation is limiting, especially when it leads to a built in resistance to change, or creates blinders to seeing opportunities.
Learning more about negotiation and practicing new skills can create discomfort, unless you are persistent and push beyond the discomfort of the change required for adopting and eventually mastering new skills.
Shift to Success:
Reframe your beliefs about negotiation.
Consider negotiation as an opportunity to shape a result that meets your needs. Just about everything is negotiable – if you see it that way! Recognize that you negotiate every day, in many small and some significant situations; to be more satisfied with what you end up with, you might as well practice being a good negotiator!
Allow yourself to get uncomfortable with your status quo, and to get comfortable with challenging any limiting beliefs that block your progress in becoming an effective negotiator.
Practice whenever you can, particular with smaller less-risky negotiations; when you face the more significant negotiations, you will be ready to face them more confidently and more effectively.