Is negotiation a man's game?

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Natalie Reynolds, founder and CEO of negotiation consultancy Advantage Spring joined professionals from a range of industries at our Covent Garden offices to shatter the myth that “negotiation is a man’s game”.

After studying law, Natalie worked across a range of high profile positions within the civil service and qualified as a barrister before moving to work for a negotiation consultancy firm.

She then went on to found her own company, providing training on how to negotiate commercially and overcome our own unconscious biases towards ourselves and others at the negotiation table.

“It’s important to demystify negotiation, and to recognise how often we do it in everyday life,” Natalie explained.

“Negotiation isn’t necessarily about getting the best result from a business deal – it requires skills that we develop in all areas of our personal and professional lives.”

“A big part of the challenge is about getting people to recognise that they already possess these skills and getting them to apply them in a professional setting as effectively as they do elsewhere.”

Balance likability with assertion

“If you X, then I Y” is one of the most powerful phrases in any negotiation, Natalie stresses. Our tendency to become overly concerned that we will be perceived as pushy or rude can lead us to offer something without asking for anything in return.

“It’s important to remember that people are more likely to make a deal with someone they can relate to, but it is possible to take this too far and become overly concerned with likability when negotiating,” continued Natalie Reynolds.

“Finding a balance between likability and pursuing your goal effectively is essential.”

Natalie also highlighted and challenged some of the negative stereotypes associated with female negotiators; that “women don’t ask”, “women are better at negotiating for others than themselves” and “women can’t do the tough stuff”.

“Studies have shown that women are often less likely to negotiate for things like higher pay than their male counterparts, but this shouldn’t be taken as a sign that they can’t,” Natalie Reynolds explained.

“These are learned behaviours, not natural ones, and evidence and observations show that women are equally capable negotiators as men.”

Negotiation is best for both parties

It is important to recognise that while negotiation will not always be comfortable at the time, it is essential for both parties to feel like they have got a good deal.

Whilst many people will avoid negotiation it is worth remembering that we have a natural tendency to assume that if getting something was too easy, then there must have been some kind of catch that we have missed. As a result we are inclined to place greater value on the things we work hard or negotiate hard for.

“Negotiating is essential to make sure both parties feel they’ve got a fair deal,” Natalie Reynolds explained.

“It can be tempting to see a negotiation as a battle, but ideally it should be an experience both parties walk away from not feeling that they have ‘lost’, even if they aren’t able to get exactly what they want.”

Aside from changing the mind-set with which you approach negotiations, Natalie also offers the following advice:

  • Have your business case ready
  • See the world through their eyes
  • Be clear on your ‘breakpoint’
  • Open with an ambitious but credible offer
  • If possible, make your offer first

“Make sure you’ve planned your negotiation, considered how they might respond to your offer and how you will react if they do,” added Natalie Reynolds.

“Remember, negotiation begins when someone says ‘no’, so don’t view it as the end, instead view it as your invitation to explore what could be possible."

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Read our advice on how to build your career confidence.

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