New Story, New Power

There are many stories women hear about how they should behave in public and in private, how they should relate to other people, how they should handle their emotions, and how assertive they should be. (A lot of “shoulds” in there!) Then there is the reality of what actually happens when women follow the rules. The world around us keeps changing, but many of the messages of how women should be in order to be well-socialized into society, have not. Plus, there is more diversity in the workplace, in our schools, and on social media, so that there is no one message or way of being in the world.

Many women struggle with the contradictions between what they hear they should be doing and the outcomes they wish to achieve. Beth wishes she had New Story, New Power when she was younger, so that perhaps she could have skipped over some of the “trial and error” (or trial by fire) learning she had growing up.

For example, maybe she would have toned down her NYC assertiveness when she went to live in Japan. Listening is a powerful tool she had to learn, sometimes painfully, and that demonstrating strength and intelligence does not only come from what you say. It also comes from what you do not say. When we listen, we receive information we can use when we connect and relate to others in our negotiations. If we rely on speaking more of the time, we do not really know how to understand the silence of our negotiating partner. Are they silently agreeing or are they just waiting until we finish and their positions have not budged at all?

Effective negotiation requires a combination of skills and confidence. When we feel better prepared we have more confidence. The more we engage and learn from our engagement, the better skills we develop. If we build up the hype that this negotiation is everything or this person is really tough to negotiate with, we frighten ourselves into diminishing our effectiveness before we even enter the room. If we boil it down to the mantra, “this is just a conversation, I am getting to know someone new,” we allow ourselves to relax, releasing good endorphins that can calm us, so that we enter with curiosity to learn more. We lower the hurdles and have fun.

Of course, we still need to know what we want to accomplish in any negotiation because we’ve done our preparation. We can build relationships to connect and learn more, while remaining assertive and firm about getting what we need. In the meantime, we’ve begun to establish rapport so that future encounters will begin from a more positive starting point. And even if it is a one-off and you don’t negotiate with that particular person again, you still have had a good practice session that boosts your confidence to enter into the next negotiation, that much more powerfully.