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Do men and women negotiate differently?

During my 10 years at the world’s most successful negotiation consultancy, many clients from a range of sectors and geographies have shared their observations, stories, and examples as to why they believe men and women negotiate differently.

But what do you think? Who is better?

In December 2019, The Gap Partnership conducted a survey with 1,213 global respondents. 56% of the respondents were women, and 44% were men. Additionally, we conducted 18 qualitative interviews with both men and women from various sectors to enhance the data and provide context. The research was designed to uncover conscious and unconscious bias, dispel myths, highlight truths, and draw actionable conclusions about how the findings can be applied by our clients.

The results were fascinating. So, are there differences in how each gender negotiates?

The answer for most respondents was a resounding yes. 73% of both men and women agree that the genders negotiate differently. However, that is not to say anyone is agreeing one gender’s approach is preferable to the others – and that is critical. Whilst a large proportion agreed that there are marked differences in style, approach, and sentiment between the genders, there is no difference in either gender’s ability to negotiate successfully.

Over the last 10 years, I have had the opportunity to negotiate with, alongside and to train hundreds of negotiators, both good and bad. However, the capability of the negotiator was never driven solely by the gender of the individual. This is of course my subjective view, but the best negotiators I have come across during my career have primarily been driven by the individual’s ability to flex their negotiation style depending on the situation or circumstances. We all feel more comfortable with certain negotiation styles, but it is the ability of the negotiator to seamlessly adapt their strategy, tactics, and approach, that sets the best from the rest.

So, do men and women negotiate differently? Arguably yes, but is that a bad thing? As workplaces continue to evolve to greater gender equality, we will naturally see more diverse negotiation teams. Our survey concluded that both men and women are big supporters of more diverse teams, not just in gender but also culture, age, and experience.

We all see the world through a different lens, and it is those different views, perspectives and opinions that often help us to unlock added value, to explore creative opportunities and to find solutions that help us to navigate uncertainty. While men and women clearly have both similarities and differences when it comes to negotiation, one thing was abundantly clear in our survey – that everyone wishes they could be better at it.

So, what can either gender do to master the art of negotiation? Nobody is born a great negotiator, so invest in negotiation training and expose yourself more regularly to negotiation by observing colleagues, or through practice. And finally, seek the views of others. More diverse teams often lead to better results.

Further reading.

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