Why Women Don’t Like Win/Lose Negotiation

I did a workshop recently which I called Think Like A Woman ~ Negotiate Like A Man. My starting point for creating this workshop was how often we read and hear that women can’t negotiate, because we are too accommodating to be good negotiators, more easily accept the first offer than men do, and initiate negotiations less frequently than men do. Many of these research findings are widely accepted, but it has occurred to me that the folks who talk about this information interpret it through the lens of win/lose negotiation: both parties compete to win as much as they can.

It’s not that women can’t do “win/lose” kinds of deals. It’s that our larger purpose – nurturing life – whether it’s the life of our children, our family, our circles – usually overrides the “I-self,” the ego that wants its cake and wants to eat it too (more on that in subsequent columns.)

Who’s Talking About Win/Win?

Win/lose strategies are only one of the ways people can negotiate. On the other end of the continuum are win/win strategies, something you hear about less frequently. What we see in the news and portrayed in movies and television are people trying to get the better of each other, working to get the best deal while the other person gets the worst deal.

In January 2011, USA Network tried to give us a different point of view. They aired a TV show, Fairly Legal, starring Sarah Shahi as Kate Reed, a young woman who changes her profession from lawyer to mediator. In additional to the complicated interpersonal plots, the series showed Kate bringing angry litigants together and helping them find more productive, responsible and mutually beneficial solutions. The show had two seasons ~ it was way too boring to watch people cooperating and collaborating instead of battling each other.

I mention Sarah Shahi because she currently stars in Person of Interest where she plays a sociopathic sharpshooter. The theme of Person of Interest revolves around a former CIA officer (Jim Caviezel) recruited by a mysterious billionaire (Michael Emerson) to prevent violent crimes in New York City. The show itself is very violent: both the good guys and the bad guys are pretty crazy and out for blood. I’m totally addicted to this show and so is Jeff. He’s in love with Sarah Shahi’s character because she is so hot, so in your face and ~ armed and dangerous. We watched Fairly Legal a few times when it first aired, and ho – hum ~ time for a nap.

So it’s no wonder that we (the collective we) are not running around cheerleading for the kind of win/win negotiation that includes empathy and respect for other people. We’re addicted to having good guys and bad guys and watching people beat each other up in the name of preventing violence.

And that is the frame through which women are judged when they negotiate. The question everyone is asking is, are you big and bad enough to win, without concern for anyone else. Let’s start with a new question:

Where on the continuum are you? Do you want to win as much as you can, without regard to anyone else? Do you want to “share the pie” so everyone can get something they need or want? Where on the continuum are you?




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