Negotiating – Advantage Women?

And it’s time for women to take advantage of this new model of negotiating — one that honors compromising and consensus-building over arguing and making demands.

The new negotiating style is no longer black or white, but creative and flexible. It is win-win versus win at all costs.

A perfect example of a master at the new win-win negotiating is Susan Pravda, managing partner of the Boston office of Foley & Lardner and a graduate of Harvard Law School.

Pravda strongly believes that women have an edge over men at the negotiating table. “We can be more accessible as people, instantly. We usually have a greater ability to befriend the other side and quite frankly, I think most people enjoy the difference. They get a kick out of the fact that it’s not business-as-usual.”

However, Pravda also believes that women only have an advantage if they use it correctly. “You have to ask yourself, ‘Is there something about my status that allows me to use it to my benefit? If you have a great command of French, and you can converse in French, that can be a terrific asset. My advantage is that, like most women, I schmooze pretty well. So it’s easier for me to break the ice and build a better rapport with people. Also, I’ve found that a lot of men actually find it easier to talk to women. And if I can take advantage of that, you better believe I do!”

Pravda thinks there are three major strengths she brings to the negotiating table. “First, I tend to be very creative and that is key to solving problems that come up. Second, I’m tough, but in a different way than what is characteristically considered ‘male toughness.’ I’m tough in that I take tough positions and try to represent my clients to the fullest extent of my abilities.

“But I’m not tough personally at the table. I don’t yell. I don’t slam my fists on the table. That just doesn’t work for me. And the one thing I’ve learned about negotiating is that you have to stick to a style that works for you.”

The third skill Pravda bring to a negotiation, and which she believes is critical to success, is the ability to listen. “I’ve learned both from personal experience and from training a lot of young associates when to stop talking and when to start listening.”

Negotiating checklist

The following suggestions can help any woman be more successful when negotiating, regardless of who is on the other side of the table.

– Do your homework

– Know what you want to accomplish

– Take your time getting what you want

– Determine the other person’s negotiating style, and adapt accordingly

– When you concede on a point, make a big deal out of it (even if it’s not)

– Check your emotions at the door

– Plan to be tested.

– Don’t be afraid of silence — it’s a powerful tool

– When negotiations get stuck and nobody will budge, initiate a review of how far you’ve come

– Close on a high note

In other words, women can benefit when they appear to approach negotiations in entirely different ways than men do. But it is precisely these differences that often give female negotiators an edge.