How Well Do Women Negotiate?

Women can't negotiate. Oh really? On the contrary we are always negotiating. We just don’t give ourselves credit for it – in fact do we actually realize that we are doing it? Think of those conversations with your manager, your client, your team, your partner, your children – anyone with whom you have an ongoing relationship - where you needed an outcome. What did you do? How did you get there?

The chances are you read the situation and picked what you deemed to be potentially the most appropriate moment to engage.  You may have been hinting on and off or alluding to the subject matter for a while.  You may have written down some facts or gathered evidence in your favour just in case they were needed (you could perhaps use these as a leverage? Or maybe just have them to give you additional confidence  – we like to do this).  You possibly looked into the reasons why the other person may be holding a controversial view to yours and what this means to them.

You are probably thinking by now yes of course - this is standard stuff and doesn’t everyone do it?  Well actually it turns out that no actually not everyone does do it.  As women we are hard wired to think about others, seek to understand others and use our Emotional Intelligence.  The differences between the ‘female brain’ and the ‘male brain’, according to Simon Baron-Cohen (University of Cambridge), have emerged during the course of evolution due to exposure to different life challenges. 

The male brain is characterised by systemising tendencies (understanding and predicting a system/situation or inventing a new one).  Satoshi Kanazawa in Psychology Today expands on this - these skills were necessary for creating tools and weapons, but goes further in analysing male emotion, more importantly that low empathy levels grew out of responding to long lone hunting trips, and potentially committing acts of violence toward any competition – after all it was much easier to kill said competition if you haven’t connected on an emotional level. 

Conversely the female brain is characterised by empathising tendencies (identifying emotions and thoughts and responding with appropriate emotion, understanding the other person to predict his or her behaviour).  These being much needed skills when mothering infants who are unable to communicate their needs directly for example. Therefore we as women are naturally equipped to engage, relate, understand – key skills for negotiating and influencing.

So how does this manifest itself today?

It would appear that we have now evolved to such a state that we are questioning why and how our behaviors impact on us and those around us, and it is women who are choosing to develop their knowledge further.  UCAS official Number of Acceptance into Psychology 2015 shows that 10655 women were accepted against 2470 men.  So our knowledge combined with our ability gives us a powerful insight into understanding others.

So how does this link back to negotiating? Based on our extensive research into personal experiences (both male and female) and the neuroscience which underpins our behaviors, our findings present a consistent message – women rate themselves lower in competencies such as personal presence, commercial and strategic vision – and men rate us lower in these categories too.  (quite surprising as these skills naturally underpin our family focused survival instinct on a basic level).  Interestingly research also tells us that women’s self-image is unduly influenced by the opinions of their male colleagues.

What better way to address these perceived weaker areas than to build on our existing sub conscious negotiation and influencing skills?  By understanding how to communicate with individuals and building relationships based on personal needs and recognizing key triggers and the neurochemical reactions in ourselves and others, we are able to build trust and gain confidence in our actions and most importantly, ourselves.  After all the first and most crucial negotiations are always the ones with oneself.

In fact as professional negotiators we hear increasingly of the need for upskilling in influencing (think Nudge; Thinking fast and Slow; Robert Cialdini et al - we are being influenced constantly in the world we live in) and to do this we need to be able to really understand how someone thinks and reacts and as females we are well placed ahead of the game for intuitive understanding.  By recognizing and labeling our subconscious habits and talents and gaining in confidence we will better positioned to embrace strategic decisions, focus on our personal presence and take on the commercial world.

To discuss this article in more depth and explore developing your negotiation capabilities, please contact us via email or call +612 9299 9688.

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ENS International (ENSI) provides negotiation consulting and training services helping people and organizations think and act differently to achieve more. 

Negotiators gain the edge using proven ENSI influencing processes incorporating commercial psychology with a deep understanding of human behaviour. ENSI delivers through Consulting Services and In-House or Open Course training. 

With over 60 Practitioners working within 75 countries we have a depth of experience across a diverse range of sectors.

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