Women need to speak up and ask for what they want. Yet, are often met with resistance when they do. What to do walk the gender tight rope and ask assertively?
Research shows that men are four times more likely to negotiate than a woman. Women leaders do not speak up and ask for what they want, especially if it feels selfish. Yet, women are more successful negotiators than men when negotiating on someone else’s behalf. We have the skill, just lack the will. This is why we have a section in our new book ONE: How Men and Women Partner for Gender Equality (get your copy here) dedicated to speaking up.
For women looking to strengthen your negotiation skills, practice:
- Channeling your purpose and passion
- Opening the discussion from a place of positive intent and common ground
- Aligning your ask with your audience’s wants to find win-win solutions
Channeling your purpose and passion
Humans are wired emotionally. We are far more likely to take action based on a strong purpose or “why” than the tactical “what” or “how.” Simon Sinek’s book, Start with Why, articulates this beautifully with proven research. That means that when we decide to negotiate, knowing why we want what we want is pivotal. And, when we share our ask with conviction, passion, and confidence, our audience is more likely to respond positively.
Preparation pays off. Thinking about what you want, why you want it, and how it will work is key. We encourage women leaders to document their negotiation plan. Outline the what, why, and how, focusing on your unique purpose and passions.
Choose your battles. Ask for what you want that align most with your purpose and passion areas. We may get finite chances to ask for it, so it is important to be strategic and focus on what you truly want vs. nice to haves. Reflect on this question, what is one thing that will have the greatest impact on me (personally, professionally, etc.)? That’s your winner.
Opening the discussion from a place of positive intent and common ground
Establishing common ground early in a discussion is important. With our plan in hand outlining our what, why, and how, we’re armed and ready to initiate a dialogue. Once we have stated our ask, pause and take a breath, and ask our audience, “what do you think?” Such a simple, yet powerful question. When we ask the question early, we involve the audience in the discussion and facilitate a brainstorm collaboration vs. the oppositional “what I want” vs. “what you want” unproductive conversation ping-pong. This establishes common ground based on both parties’ interests.
Positive intent is a game changer. Assume your audience has positive intentions, just as you do. Most people are good people. That means they want to help us. By putting yourself out there with your ask, you have demonstrated vulnerability, and most people respond by mirroring that vulnerability. If you are communicating with the decision maker, assume that they are aligned. They just need to understand the what, why, and how of your ask to get there.
Aligning your ask with your audience’s wants to find win-win solutions
Remember that you have likely been thinking about your ask much longer than the party you are speaking with. This may be the first time they have thought about it. To facilitate their thinking, ask lots of open-ended questions. Powerful questions start with “what” and “how,” or my personal favorite “tell me more.” Good negotiators listen more than they speak. They take copious notes and have already anticipated what their audience may want too, or what their questions will be.
In your preparation plan, make sure to brainstorm areas of alignment. Where are the places you both win. Offering up something that helps your audience early encourages them to engage and support you. Emphasizing commonality vs. differences bridges the gap in perceptions. Be sure to give your audience space and time to think too. Once you have articulated the what, why, and how, and asked at least three questions, it’s okay to back off. Do be sure to schedule a follow up time to talk, or ask for the expectation of decision making time frame. There is nothing worse than having the tough talk, and then nothing happening. It’s your job to follow up.
My women’s leadership crush
I had the thrill of meeting one of women’s leadership crushes last month at a conference. I actually spoke after her, which was surreal.
Linda Babcock, author of Ask for It, taught us a simple four step process to practice to be better negotiators. It reinforces this approach. Above all, practicing the negotiation conversation is critical for success. When we practice, we have a vision of success during the real discussion. We’re far more likely to be confident when prepared.
Her steps include these phases:
- Identify what you want
- Make a plan
- Get ready strategically
- Get ready psychologically
We believe strongly in our message to spread male allyship and develop women leaders. If you do too, share our mantra below or post your stories and thoughts with these hashtags: #genderequality #ONE #heforshe #maleallies #femaleadvocacy.
I believe in gender equality. I believe women and men, partnering together for gender equality, is what is best for all humans. By collaborating together, we will improve the lives of future women leaders and girls who will grow up in a world where anything is possible. My voice matters. I make choices every day supporting gender equality. We are all in this together. I commit to supporting male allyship. We are stronger together. We are ONE.