The Negotiator Magazine

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Gender-based stereotypes cause many people difficulty when they interact with attorneys and business people of the opposite gender. Men often expect women to behave like “ladies” during their bargaining interactions. Overt aggressiveness that would be considered vigorous advocacy if employed by men may be characterized as offensive and threatening when used by women. This is especially true when females employ foul language and loud voices. Male negotiators who would immediately counter such tactics by other men with quid pro quo responses frequently find it difficult to adopt retaliatory approaches against women. When men permit such an irrelevant factor to influence and restrict their responsive behavior, they provide their female opponents with a bargaining advantage. Some men also find it difficult to act as competitively toward female opponents as they would toward male opponents. These men give further leverage to their female opponents.

Male attorneys and business people occasionally make the mistake of assuming that their female opponents will not engage in as many negotiating “games” as their male adversaries. Even many women erroneously assume that other females won’t employ the Machiavellian tactics stereotypically associated with members of the competitive male culture. Men and women who expect their female adversaries to behave less competitively and more cooperatively often ignore the realities of their negotiation encounters and give a significant bargaining advantage to women who are willing to employ manipulative tactics.

Some male negotiators attempt to gain a psychological advantage against aggressive females by casting aspersions on the femininity of those individuals. They hope to embarrass those bargainers and make them feel self-conscious with respect to the approach they are using. Female negotiators should never allow adversaries to employ this tactic. They have the right to use any techniques they think appropriate, regardless of the stereotypes those tactics might contradict. To male opponents who raise specious objections to their otherwise proper conduct, they should reply that they do not wish to be viewed as “ladies,” but merely as participants in bargaining interactions in which their gender should be irrelevant.

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