Walch, who teaches cross-cultural negotiation at Thunderbird School of Global Management in Glendale, Ariz., said women often find themselves in predatory negotiation environments where the other side views them as an opponent to be destroyed. But women understand intuitively that successful negotiation doesn’t have to be so harsh.
Walch said women know better than men that win-win solutions often emerge when negotiators learn to collaborate as partners rather than fight as enemies. “Our intuition tells us that this is possible,” Walch told an audience of about 400 women professionals at the J. W. Marriott Desert Ridge Resort & Spa. She shared at least three strategies to help women negotiators find these win-win solutions.
Advocate for yourself
Walch said research shows that women negotiators perform about 20 percent better than men when they advocate for a cause.
She said women find a powerful voice when they speak on behalf of other women, children or groups. “We excel at that type of negotiation,” Walch said.
Women negotiators can use this same power on their own behalf when they learn to step forward as their own advocates. “Step up and say what you believe in,” Walch said. “Be an advocate for yourself.”
She said women who do this show up at the negotiation table with a different mindset. “They ask for credibility,” she said. “They ask for respect.”
Use your whole brain
Walch said women also gain an edge when they learn to negotiate with their whole brains.
She said some negotiators favor the left brain, which processes information in an analytical and sequential manner. Other negotiators favor the right brain, which processes information in a holistic and intuitive manner.
New brain research also shows important activity takes place in the prefrontal lobe, which controls a person’s sense of higher purpose and mystery in life.
“You integrate this with the left and right brain, and we find that this is the most powerful source to accomplish anything you want,” Walch said. “Power is in this alignment of using your emotional skills and intellectual skills.”
Walch said women who use their whole brains in negotiation have an innate ability to discover the mutual interests they share with the other side. They watch for nonverbal cues and pick up unconscious signals.
“Women have innate skills to coax out of someone what are the real problems they are facing,” Walch said. “This can lead to win-win solutions.”
Be a problem solver
The final thing women can do to gain power in negotiation is to view themselves as problem solvers.
Walch said negotiators who seek win-win solutions through collaboration sometimes run the risk of becoming too soft. They can make too many concessions to preserve the relationship. Predatory negotiators who seek win-lose solutions through competition run the opposite risk. They can be too hard.
Walch said a third option usually works best.
“We’re not just friends, and we’re not just adversaries,” she said. “We need to change our mindset to: We are problem solvers together.”
She said problem solvers use empathy to figure out what problems the other side faces. Then both sides collaborate to find mutually beneficial solutions.
“Think of negotiation as a problem-solving exercise,” Walch said.
48 Laws for 21st Century Global Negotiators: Join Thunderbird Professor Karen S. Walch, Ph.D., as she explores the laws of power for 21st century global negotiators in the World Cafe blog. Each Monday she discusses one law and provides an exercise to identify and enhance individual negotiation power. Read her introduction to the series and view other posts in the series.