Tapping into women’s strengths for negotiation success

We begin to learn the art of negotiation in childhood. Our parents tell us if we eat our meal, we get dessert, or if we clean up our toys, we get a treat. These transactions teach us that if we do what another person wants, we can be rewarded.

As we grow, we begin to negotiate with our teachers, our coaches and our friends. And by the time we graduate from college, we realize everything in life is about negotiation.

Trust Matters

But because of lingering perceptions that stem from years of inequality, and the lack of diversity and inclusion in event management, women have not always been thought of as great negotiators. This has been the case even though our industry is predominantly female and much of an event professional’s life involves constant negotiation, whether with vendors, sponsors, hotels, AV or clients.

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Multiple studies show that women excel in a key verbal communication skill that is essential for expressing needs, discussing terms and reaching agreements that satisfy all parties. That is empathy, a key component of emotional intelligence.

Using empathy to create connection and foster an environment where both parties feel heard and understood is the first step to building a relationship of trust. Using empathy and active listening can transform a negotiation from conflict into a collaborative dialogue for solutions where mutual understanding becomes the bridge to a successful outcome.

The greatest power a woman has in negotiation is empathy. It is the power of HERsuasion.

A Scenario in 3 Acts

Scenario: A female independent planner has a client for an incentive program to a destination where the need for negotiation is paramount due to the higher cost of travel, food, beverage, transportation, liability insurance, security and day trips.

She begins this negotiation with the hotel sales manager by listening and asking questions only later. After she has stated her needs and the potential issues, the sales manager may choose to response in one of the following ways.

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Paraphrase: “It sounds as if you’re satisfied with our hotel overall. But if I understand correctly, you need me to assure you that we can increase the number of rooms required? You’re also concerned about our proposed unit price per room and our willingness to work with you to create an acceptable arrangement. Have I captured your main points?”

Inquire: “You mentioned you found our proposed price to be unacceptable. Help me understand how you came to this conclusion. Let’s also talk about how we might set up a pricing structure that you find more reasonable.”

Acknowledge: “It sounds as if you’re quite disappointed with various elements of our proposal, and that you have serious concerns about whether we’ll be able to work together on this incentive.”

The skillful negotiator orchestrates these aspects of active listening to draw out the other party’s concerns and feelings, with an eye toward asserting his/her own viewpoint and engaging in joint problem-solving.

The Great Negotiator

Now let’s take a look at the key characteristics of great negotiators. As needed, they rely on these skills and abilities:

  • Assertiveness
  • Rapport building
  • Empathy
  • Flexibility
  • Intuition
  • Trust building

This is known as A.R.E. F.I.T. You are fit to negotiate.

Using HERsuasion

Now it’s time to use your HERsuasion and female intuition. Women know that by using the power of empathy, communication, and emotional intelligence, they can tame unconscious biases, ensure equitable treatment in negotiations and lead with inclusivity.

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Every woman I know has her strengths and weaknesses. If negotiating is not your strength, there are a plethora of highly skilled individuals who can support you on the contractual side. Or train yourself with the latest courses developed by individuals who have succeeded through years of experience. Know, too, that this skill is continually evolving, influenced by technology, changing market dynamics and budget.

Be Yourself

And remember this: All of life may be a negotiation but embrace your unique approach.

As women, our approach does not have to conform to aggressive stereotypes. Embracing authenticity and integrating personal values into negotiation strategies can yield surprising results.

And finally, don’t be afraid to walk away if the deal isn’t right for you or your client.

Janice Cardinale wearing black coat and crossing armsJanice Cardinale is a Smart Women in Meetings Award winner and the founder of Event Minds Matter. She is certified in peer support, positive and emotional intelligence and shares her knowledge with like-minded event professionals.

This article appears in the July 2024 issue. You can subscribe to the magazine here.