Though there are many exceptions to the rule, most women don’t like to negotiate. According to Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever, authors of “Women Don’t Ask”, women are more likely to equate negotiation with “going to the dentist.” By contrast, many men speak of the act of negotiation as similar to “winning a ballgame.” Why is there such a gender divide? It has to do with our existing (and mostly outdated) social norms as well as many women’s self-fulfilling prophecies when it comes to negotiation.
Babcock and Laschever say that 2.5 times more women than men feel “a great deal of apprehension” about negotiating. They are much less likely to aggressively negotiate starting salaries, raises, or the price of a car. Women stand to miss out on a great deal of income over their lifetime if they fail to negotiate their salaries.
Women’s low expectations are often their downfall. In a climate where women already don’t earn as much as their male counterparts, it is especially important for women to negotiate salaries and raises. The days of sticking with one company, or let alone one career path, are over. In today’s environment, we can change jobs, companies, and fields of work multiple times throughout our lifetimes.
How can we motivate women to negotiate more? A study released in 2010 by UCLA and University of Washington professors suggests that women who use fear as a motivation tool can negotiate more effectively. In the study, men and women played a simple game and were told they would be paid a negotiable amount based on their performance. The subjects would watch videos designed to make participants feel angry, fearful, or neutral. Men made to feel fearful were actually less likely to initiate negotiation, while fearful women were more likely to instigate negotiation and ended up with more money.
Eleanor Roosevelt, one of the most influential women in the 20th century, said, “Do one thing every day that scares you.” The key to conquering something we find intimidating is to simply lean into the discomfort and practice what scares us. If you find negotiation to be anxiety-provoking, desensitize yourself by negotiating small things first.
Find opportunities to be assertive and decisive, with your coworkers, family members, and strangers. Yet, seek to understand the other party’s needs. Strive for an agreement that allows him or her to get what they want, while you get what you want. A great deal allows both parties to walk away happy with the prospect of doing business again.
John Bradley Jackson
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