Just look at the word negotiation. It hangs in the air like a dirigible, just a bunch of hot air and bloated promises. It’s enough to make your stomach turn.
Why is that? Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever in their ground-breaking books Women Don’t Ask and Ask For It, have unpacked the answer to that question with exhaustive research and numbing statistics. Like my business partner and I, they’ve developed courses and training opportunities for women to begin turning those numbers around.
But because just the word itself carries such a heavy negative load, women don’t perceive negotiation to be transformative. And even if they do learn the strategies and tactics of interest-based negotiation, they don't believe they'll use what they learn. Yet in our experience teaching women, once the fundamental skills of interest-based negotiation are learned, everything changes.
Before women step over their fears and register for our training, we hear them say things like, “I’m going to learn this stuff because I have to, but I don’t hold much stock that it will do anything for me.” Or, “Sure I can learn negotiation, but I won’t be able to actually use the skills. Or “No way am I going to ask for a raise…I’ll get my walking papers if I do.”
After they step over the threshold what they soon learn is that negotiation is far more than just getting a raise or promotion, doubling fees, or buying a car. (And they usually accomplish those things before our course ends). What they learn transforms their relationship with power--their own, intrinsic power.
A Story of Transformation
Tonight my children and I hit what I thought at the time was a new low. All four of them were sitting on my lap to one degree or another whilst we all cried. I mean we sobbed our hearts out. It had been such a fraught afternoon. Infraction after infraction. Fighting. Mean spiritedness. (And that was just me.)So we hit this sort of breaking point I guess. While I wouldn't recommend it as a bargaining technique, in between our sobs, each one was able to do a little diagnostic questioning and we got to the bottom of some of those bad behaviors to figure out what was really going on.
For the rest of the night, each person, adult (me) and child (Miss 8, Miss 6, Mr 4 and Mr 2) were heard, seen and understood. There was helping, there was love, there were tender moments at bedtime and many apologies. Deals were struck for tomorrow's behavior.
And I was reminded again (how many times will I need this lesson?) that I am not just negotiating in my professional life, but with my children, my husband, my various communities. In short, I am negotiating in every aspect of my life, for my life.