of early social pressure to be good girls and little ladies,
women get the message that being confrontational isnt acceptable. Often
in a negotiation, women hear their inner voice say Speak Up, but many squelch these messages because of upbringing and the early lesson discouraging
complaint. Women have been socialized to avoid verbal confrontation more than
men and to speak more politely.
is susceptible to these basic differences between men and women. Even if you think
you personally dont fit the typical mold for your gender, youre sure
to negotiate with men and women who do.
following sections contain four strategies for women who want men to hear them.
If you practice one of these strategies each week, youll quickly alter the
way others perceive you. The prerequisite is to start listening to yourself. Awareness
is the first step to any behavioral change. Accept and grow, or be left in the
dust in this hardball world of negotiating. These strategies are based on making
yourself heard in present-day negotiations in which the successful role model
has been, up to now, a no-nonsense, concise leader.
#1: Avoid apologies
Women tend to be more apologetic than men. Even assertive
women sometimes unwittingly use power-robbing devices in their speech. The words
avoid certainties; hence, the speaker avoids risks. If you have something to say,
dont apologize for saying it. Here are the specific devices under the general
banner of apologies:
Prefacing and tagging refer to those little extra words before
and after a statement:
Prefacing: leading into a statement with a phrase that
weakens it. For example, Im not sure about this, but...
adding a qualifying phrase at the end of a statement. For example, We should
take action, dont you think? Dont you think and
Am I right? are typical tags.
A questioning tone is intonation that goes up a little at the end
of a sentence. This tone takes the power right out of an otherwise declarative
sentence. To the listener, the speaker sounds like she is unsure and lacks self-confidence.
What the tone communicates is, Dont you agree? Or worse, Please
agree quickly, so that I know what I just said has value.
you dont have confidence in what you say, how can you expect anybody else
to have faith in you? Listen to yourself or ask a trusted friend. If you find
that you have this damaging habit, start practicing today to get rid of it. Remember,
awareness is the first step to behavioral change, and you are now aware.
Women tend to use many little words like kind of
and sort of that rob their statements of power. If you use these phrases,
it is a habit. You can break this habit and bring more power into your speech
right now. A few examples are:
I kind of think that...
probably should really...
It seems like a fairly good way to...
You maybe need to...
These phrases dont
just contain extra words, they contain unsure words. Using these weak words may
make you seem weak.
Perhaps you developed these speech patterns to cover
your rear end. They are non-risktaking and may indicate that youre reluctant
to state issues definitively. Beware of sounding indecisive and hesitant when
you want to convey certainty. You dont need to banish these words from your
repertoire. You can use these words when you desire to hedge your bets. The point
is to have a repertoire and be able to choose the words to achieve your goals.
Nonwords are all those little extras that get plugged into
speech - those words or syllables that take the place of silence by giving you
a pause to pull together your next thought. Nonwords show up in the darndest places,
and they always slow up or divert an otherwise fine presentation.
a just a few examples:
Really: As in Really, I really want this to
Like: As in Do you want this to go like, forward?
As in ummmmm or uhhhhh
Use the silence to give power
to your statements and opinions. Practice the power of the pause in your very
#2: Be Brief
For women, talk is relationships. Men use talk to exchange
information. Men and women bond differently. Men bond through competitive mind
games with their knowledge banks. They test each other with questions. Who
pitched the last game of the World Series? one may ask. If the other guy
knows, he gets a point. And if he doesnt, thats fine, too, because
now the other guy is one up. And then the other guy will have to get him back.
Thats how men bond.
Women dont bond that way. They dont
bond through test questions. In fact, if a woman asks another woman who pitched
the last game of the World Series in 1954, the listener may extend both arms and
say, Do you need a hug? And she probably would, because that behavior
isnt normal. Women dont bond through competition.
bond through stories. You walk up to a woman you hardly know. You say, Gee,
I love that pin. Its beautiful. And she says, Thank you,
and proceeds to tell you the story behind the pin, because there is one. Women
have a story for every piece of clothing and jewelery on their bodies. They have
a story for their haircut. Some of them have stories about their hair color. You
find something in their story you can relate to and tell her a story back. If
you have enough stories in common, you will bond. Men may arm wrestle to build
a relationship. Women talk to build a relationship.
generally use more details in their conversations than men. The information you
want the male listener to hear may be lost in all the details. Watch for signs
that a male listener is glazing over and cut down on the number of words immediately.
In fact, tell men right at the start how long the story will take and stay within
the allotted time. Men feel they are responsible for the energy they allot to
a certain activity. So they feel they need to set their energy clocks,
so they dont run out of energy. Running out of energy makes them feel out
of control - a feeling they hate.
#3: Be Direct - dont hint
Make sure that you are direct - even to
the point of spelling something out. Men, more so than women, require clear messages
as well as brief ones
#4: Avoid emotional displays
Crying or other emotional displays in a negotiation
can be more distracting than a low-cut dress. It can be just as ruinous to a womans
position in a negotiation. Men have been socialized to be less emotionally demonstrative.
In fact, men have probably gone too far in the other direction, but thats
another discussion. Women have not been socialized in the same way as men. In
fact, women cry four times more frequently than men, according to a Minnesota-based
place that start curtailing emotional displays is on the job. The crying person
seems to demand a sympathetic response from the listener. Someone who is sobbing
also signals to the listener and observers that, for the moment at least, this
person is not capable of handling a situation. Crying also annoys and angers people
who have shut off their own feeling. If they dont want to deal with their
own feelings, they dont want to deal with anyone elses. Men may feel
a woman who cries is being manipulative.
you feel a cry coming on, excuse yourself, go to the bathroom, cry your eyes out,
take a deep breath, and go back to the meeting without risking that particular
mistake. If you are prone to crying, be sure you carry eyedrops to remove the
redness from your eyes.
Love Goes Wrong, Ann Jones and Susan Schechter, Harper Collins Publishers,
The article above contains foundational information. Articles below contain optional updates.
Reflection Exercise #6
The preceding section contained information about
Four Strategies For Women Who Want Men To Hear Them. Write three case study examples
regarding how you might use the content of this section of the Manual in your
What kinds of speech patterns do some clients use that result in
loss of power? To select and enter your answer go to .