Assertiveness: Helpful or Hurtful to Women

Assertiveness: Helpful or Hurtful to Women

Wednesday May 8th, I was on a panel for the Women in Negotiation Summit. The topic was on assertiveness for women in the workplace. I often marvel at how poorly most panels are moderated, but we had an excellent moderator in Jennifer Parlamis, who teaches negotiation at the School of Management at the University of San Francisco. 

While this panel was titled “Assertiveness: Helpful or Hurtful,” I would title it “How to get what you want with grace.” Assertiveness is asking for what I want, but still considering the needs, wants and rights of the other party. Aggressiveness is unilaterally telling someone, this is how it’s going to go, ignoring the other party’s needs, wants, and rights. I had a dad like that, so I know it too well.

Some of the other topics we covered:

For women looking for tools and language to have in their holster when speaking up, I recommend reading Fran Hauser’s book “The Myth of the Nice Girl.” In a negotiation, always keep the discussion focused on the growth of the business or the division, and less personally focused.

How to prepare for negotiation? I recommend that you have plan A ready and data to back it up. “I brought in 30% more revenue last quarter.” But if plan A is met with a blank stare and a rejection, then prepare plan B, C, and D and be prepared to deploy them. “Can we agree to meet in 2 months to revisit this?” It’s also smart to know the personality type that is sitting across the table. Asentiv, the coaching service, has an interesting quadrant that puts people in four categories (Go-Getters, Examiners, Nurturers, and Promoters) and the associated ways they like to engage. It’s worth knowing which quadrant the person sitting across the table falls into.

Both myself and my co panelist Lydia Frank, who is currently with Payscale, lean on our training as journalists when in a discovery session. Ask questions. Flip the paradigm. Dig into you find where the pain point is for the person sitting across the table. Then figure out a way to rise to fill that painpoint.

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