Healthcare Training Institute - Quality Education since 1979
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Because of early social pressure to be “good girls” and “little ladies,” women get the message that being confrontational isn’t 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.
Everyone is susceptible to these basic differences between men and women. Even if you think you personally don’t fit the typical mold for your gender, you’re sure to negotiate with men and women who do.
The following sections contain four strategies for women who want men to hear them. If you practice one of these strategies each week, you’ll 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.
Strategy #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, don’t apologize for saying it. Here are the specific devices under the general banner of apologies:
Prefacing and Tagging
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, “I’m not sure about this, but...”
Tagging: adding a qualifying phrase at the end of a statement. For example, “We should take action, don’t you think?” “Don’t 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, “Don’t you agree?” Or worse, “Please agree quickly, so that I know what I just said has value.”
If you don’t 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.
Hedges or Qualifiers
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...”
“We probably should really...”
“It seems like a fairly good way to...”
“Kind of/sort of...”
“You maybe need to...”
These phrases don’t 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 you’re reluctant to state issues definitively. Beware of sounding indecisive and hesitant when you want to convey certainty. You don’t 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 and nonphrases
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.
Here a just a few examples:
Really: As in “Really, I really want this to go forward.”
Like: As in “Do you want this to go like, forward?”
Um: 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 next negotiation.
Strategy #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 doesn’t, that’s fine, too, because now the other guy is one up. And then the other guy will have to get him back. That’s how men bond.
Women don’t bond that way. They don’t 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 isn’t normal. Women don’t bond through competition.
Women bond through stories. You walk up to a woman you hardly know. You say, “Gee, I love that pin. It’s 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.
Women 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 don’t run out of energy. Running out of energy makes them feel out of control - a feeling they hate.
Strategy #3: Be Direct - don’t 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
Strategy #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 woman’s 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 that’s 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 study.
The 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 don’t want to deal with their own feelings, they don’t want to deal with anyone else’s. Men may feel a woman who cries is being manipulative.
If 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.
When Love Goes Wrong, Ann Jones and Susan Schechter, Harper Collins Publishers, 1992.
Personal 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 practice.
QUESTION 20: Answer Booklet for this courseForward to Section 21
What kinds of speech patterns do some clients use that result in loss of power? To select and enter your answer go to Answer Booklet.
Back to Section 19
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