Negotiating is no game. It is not for the weak or the fragile. It takes assertiveness and someone who feels comfortable in the mano-a-mano world of business. Can women negotiate the deal as well as their male counterparts? Absolutely! In some cases, they may even do a better job. Women have a definite edge at the negotiating table because of their instincts and natural power of persuasion.
Women usually look for a win/win in negotiations. In Getting to Yes, the classic book on negotiation by the Harvard Negotiation Project, it was reported that the win/win strategy work best in negotiations. In order to avoid future resentments, all parties should come away feeling good about the resolution of a problem.
Traditionally, it is thought that whoever is on the other side in negotiations is the adversary. However, women tend to want to develop a relationship with the other person and take into account the needs and difficulties of both sides. Women also tend to collaborate and help one another if problems arise.
What traditional businesses have missed for far to long is the understanding that personal relationships, not the contract, profit margin, or delivery date is what give one the competitive edge. Historically, women have been seen as poor negotiators because they are influenced by the other party's situation. But if the truth were told women will more often than not work with their adversaries to reach a solution that is good for everyone involved.
Negotiating is a critical skill for all women aspiring to succeed in the business world. For those women who feel they are not good negotiators, they simply need to remember their natural talent of persuasion. Keep in mind even good negotiators will sometimes make mistakes. The key to avoiding these mistakes are: (1) attack the problem and not your adversary; (2) try to come up with several options; (3) never treat negotiations as a contest; (4) never threaten and (5) never give in to something that is contrary to what you believe is ethical.
The playing field for women in this arena has never been level. But women who have empowered themselves with the skills, knowledge, and confidence to negotiate at top levels have chosen a path that ultimately challenge the entrenched structures which have always hampered them. Women from childhood have been conditioned to be excellent negotiators. So ladies, do not be afraid to step up to table and negotiate with the big boys. Master the art of negotiating, use it with confidence, and the only limits to what you can achieve will be those placed upon yourself.
Ms. Lewis is President and CEO of The Deline Institute for Professional Development, a training organization which provides workshops and seminars geared toward businesswomen. Ms. Lewis is a native of New Orleans, Louisiana. She is an Adjunct Professor at National-Louis University, where she teaches Human Resource Management. Ms. Lewis has conducted training for the Federal government on Diversity, as well as EEO regulations and guidelines. Ms. Lewis is a certified trainer with the Professional Women Network, specializing in the area of Diversity with an emphasis in Women's Issues. Ms. Lewis is a member of the Professional Woman Network and Professional Woman Speakers Bureau; the National Association of Female Executives; The African American Federal Executive Association and Federally Employed Women. Ms. Lewis' knowledge of business and professionalism is supported by 21 years of work experience in the military and 18 years of continuous work experience as a civilian with the Federal government.