We feel smarter when talking. But studies show that people who listen more are usually considered to be smarter than people who talk a lot.
Negotiate #LikeAGirl, and don’t get Manterrupted!
By Marianne Eby
Two female power stories caught my woman negotiator’s eye this last month: The #LikeAGirl campaign gone viral after the US NFL's Super Bowl XLVIV, and Jessica Bennett’s Time Magazine article How Not to Be ‘Manterrupted’. It's a one-two punch and we negotiators can learn a lot from both.
It’s difficult NOT to jump on the bandwagon of a popular Twitter hashtag when it really speaks to you. I watch the Super Bowl every year, and always find new insights, although not about football. See my 2014 blog on Super Bowl XLVIII Cheerios commercial of a young daughter’s negotiation with her dad that put most negotiators to shame. Academics and practitioners alike know children are the best negotiators – ask for what they want, persistent questioners, super curious, unafraid of “No”, and armed with an infinite supply of creative solutions.
2015’s Super Bowl inspired the "girl" negotiator in me with Always #LikeAGirl campaign, turning on its head the centuries old negative connotation that goes with doing anything “like a girl.” (i.e., you throw like a girl...and a hundred others.)
Some of my favorite 2015 hashtags trending for #LikeAGirl
and of course
At Watershed, we train and coach amazing women negotiators at corporations around the world. We remind them that there are instincts and skills many women naturally possess that are the foundation for masterful negotiating – skills that we all (men and women) need to achieve Win-Win in our negotiations. We remind them to Negotiate #LikeAGirl:
- Empathy – It’s not unusual in any ladies' hangout to hear the comment – “He totally lacks the empathy gene!” It’s not that males aren’t empathetic, but many have to work at it more. It doesn’t take much effort for most women, on the other hand, to step into the other side’s shoes. Negotiators need empathy, because until you can truly grasp what the other side needs and why they need it, you can’t make proposals that address those needs and achieve real value for both parties.
- Intuition – How often have you heard someone say – trust your woman’s intuition? Everybody -- men and women -- has intuition – gut feelings – but women tend to have brain connections that assemble and decode diverse inputs more easily than men, and can therefore more easily capture unspoken messages. This special wiring enables us to recognize hidden fears and intents that may sabotage agreement if they aren’t dealt with.
- Cooperation – Some researches claim that the female brain is wired for cooperation, thanks to ample amounts of oxytocin, a hormone that acts as a neurotransmitter in our brains. Females have more oxytocin, so if the researchers are right, women negotiators may be more likely to engage in the kind of collaboration that results in mutually beneficial agreements.
- Active listening – The research is not clear that men don’t listen well, but it is clear that women certainly perceive men don’t listen well. Deborah Tannen's early research in this area is renowned. Regardless whether men and women actually listen better or worse than the other, all negotiators must master the power of listening.
About 10 years into my legal career, I interviewed for my dream job outside of law, and knew immediately after the interview that I didn’t get the job because I added not one stimulating insight to the conversation. I had some great ideas, but just couldn’t get them in without interrupting the very talkative Vice President who interviewed me. I was shocked when I got offered the job the next day. Months later while on the job, the EVP was singing my praises to the VP, and I overheard that VP tell his boss – “I was so impressed with our conversation when she interviewed that I knew she was perfect for the job!”
I had clearly honed listening to a whole new level. But regardless of my unfortunate (or fortunate) excessive listening, active listening is a skill that can and should be developed by everyone. For better or worse, women negotiators may have the upper hand if like me, they can make people feel heard (a concession received in itself) just by listening.
To use and not be used by these natural female tendencies, women negotiators should take heed:
- Watch out Empathizers! Don’t let empathy turn to sympathy and drive you to give away free gifts or change your proposal to be less advantageous to you!
- Watch out Intuiters! Your intuition is just a clue and not a conclusion, so Probe with sincerity to uncover hidden motivations.
- Watch out Listeners! Listening is helpful only if you take what you heard and respond to it with relevant ideas.
- Watch out Cooperators! Cooperating can easily turn into accommodation or compromise when a collaborative strategy will provide greater benefit for all parties.
Each gender has it’s inherent strengths and often those strengths can lead to weaknesses, like my allowing that VP to talk my entire interview. Or as Jessica Bennett, award winning writer, editor and producer illustrates -- allowing ourselves and our female colleagues to be "manterrupted” or have our ideas “bro-propriated.” We’ve all been interrupted at meetings and had others take credit for the ideas we pose – men and women alike – but ask your mothers, sisters, female bosses, wives and girl friends if they think it happens a lot more to them than the men in your life think it happens to them.
Bennett refers to the recent New York Times op-ed by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg and Wharton business school professor Adam Grant:
“When a woman speaks in a professional setting, she walks a tightrope. Either she’s barely heard or she’s judged as too aggressive. When a man says virtually the same thing, heads nod in appreciation of his fine idea.”
Bennett and her friends call this Manterrupting. Bennett proposes some great strategies, such as a imposing a general rule of no interruptions at meetings. She also proposes more targeted advice:
- Bystanders nudging the male (or female) interrupter;
- Women “avoid the baby voice and speak authoritatively” -- don’t hedge your ideas with “this may not work, but….”; and
- Women should practice assertive body language (see Amy Cudy’s research on body language and how it can change other people’s perceptions and your own psyche).
Each gender has strengths and weaknesses. But Negotiating is not male or female – it’s a conversation looking for creative ideas to expand value and lead to sustainable agreements. These conversations benefit from empathy, intuition, cooperation, listening, giving due credit for ideas, and not interrupting each other. So to all women and men negotiators, I say Negotiate #LikeAGirl!