Attention, women leaders: When it comes to leadership—or anything else—men more often bully their way into getting what they want, while women tend to accommodate and back down. When faced with tough negotiations, women should dredge up these tactics to mute their anxiety and prime their bargaining skills:
Prepare, then lose the notes. Know exactly what you want going into any negotiation. Also, know your opponent. If the issue is complex or new to you, it may require more thinking time than you anticipated or care to devote. That said, every moment spent planning your strategy is worthwhile. It could take days or weeks. Compile data to back up your position. Try to think at least two moves ahead on every contentious issue. Present yourself confidently.
Psyche yourself up. Even men need to do this, and they have more testosterone. Particularly if coworkers describe you as nice, gracious, sweet, unassuming or—our favorite—poised, you probably need to do a little chest-pounding first. Tell yourself you’re going to win (better: “kick ass”). Review all the ways you can win. Picture yourself winning. Give a thought to celebrating after you’ve won.
Take up as much space as possible. Practice that old chestnut about spreading yourself out at the negotiating table or fluffing up the amount of personal space you take in the elevator.
Remind yourself that it’s not personal. You’ve heard this a zillion times, but it’s still hard to lighten up. Repeat after us: It’s just a game. Probably no one will die. If you’re accused of “playing games,” don’t become defensive. Just smile. That probably means you’re winning.
Remember your part. As a leader, you should be generally well versed in all aspects of the negotiations, but concentrate on your role and let the other players—notably, the specialists—shine in theirs.
Recognize a bully or an irrational fool. Don’t rise to the bait. Empathize with emotional issues, but quietly steer the talk back to what you want to accomplish. Don’t allow yourself to be provoked to angry outbursts, silence or tears. On the other hand, bullies often respond only to an overwhelming show of force, so be loaded for bear in case the need arises.
Take a couple of pain-killers beforehand. Headache or discomfort can throw you off your game.
Don’t fume or gloat afterward. This actually is where poise helps, although the term seems to be applied exclusively to women. So, after it’s over, keep your body language under control. Later, you can tell your closest friends that you kicked ass and that you were poised.