The Negotiator Magazine

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Negotiation for Women: The Dual Aspects of Outcome and Relationship

by Delee Fromm

Men and women view negotiating differently. Research shows that men ask for things they want and initiate negotiations far more often than women – 3 to 4 times more often. The majority of women report that negotiating is an unpleasant experience, especially when negotiating for themselves, and 20% say they don’t negotiate at all. In interviews women indicate that if they cannot figure out a way to avoid negotiations, they approach them with sweaty palms and a high level of anxiety.

So why is the way most women view or approach negotiation problematic? Because the choices we make during negotiations shape our careers and our lives into the future. Isolated negotiations fold into larger and more important ones. How we are viewed by others is determined by how well we hold our own in negotiations – both the formal and the day-to-day kind. To give a concrete example of the problem, research suggests that the huge wage disparity between males and females is due to this difference in approach to negotiation. So mastery of, and ease in negotiation is very important for women.

So why is there such a big difference between the sexes in the area of negotiation? One important factor is the different emphasis placed on outcome and relationship. All negotiations can be placed on a continuum with relationships at one end and outcome at the other. At the outcome end would be negotiations for cars, appliances and real estate – those negotiations where the price and features of the purchased items are paramount and the relationship with the salesperson or broker of little importance. At the other end – the relationship end – would be negotiations with family, friends and work colleagues. These are people with whom you have an ongoing relationship and the outcome of one negotiation is much less important than the relationship as a whole.

Although both aspects exist in any negotiation – most men focus on outcome or results. In contrast most women tend to place greater importance on the relationship aspect in almost every type of negotiation. As a result women sometimes allow relationship to get in the way of achieving their desired outcomes. They fall into the "trying to keep everyone happy" trap. Without recognizing this tendency they give in even when the outcome is important to them. Or they may take what is offered without asking or negotiating for something different.

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June 2007