Q&A: Women and Negotiations

Carolina Perez Sanz sits down with James Patrick and Pierre Morgan-Davies in a Q&A about the differences between men and women when negotiating. Does gender play a role? What commonalities are there between men and women? And can everyone learn to negotiate?

Pitfalls of negotiation

Research and our observation through working with many senior individuals suggests that one of the factors affecting the gender pay gap is women’s tendency to not negotiate their salaries and avoid asking for pay rises.

Although women outperform men in representational negotiations, they can still improve when negotiating for themselves.

While trying to figure out whether we should include a gender angle in the advice and training we offer at Templar, I spoke with my colleagues Pierre Morgan-Davies and James Patrick, two experienced negotiators.

Q&A - women and negotiation 


Pierre Morgan-Davies (PMD):  

Individual psychological characteristics certainly play a role in negotiation. You must be aware of your own and those of your counterpart in order to counteract them.

Think of the four traits in the DISC assessment: Dominance, Influence, Steadiness, Conscientiousness. If you’re a team player, your salient trait is Steadiness, and harmony your desired outcome.  You can always get that, but you’ll get beaten up in the process.

Whereas if you skew towards Dominance, you want to win no matter what. You may get the outcome, but you’ll end up beating up your counterpart and ruining the relationship.

A negotiation between two Dominant-type personalities won’t end in a deal because they’ll be competing as opposed to focusing on achieving what’s best for both.

Psychological characteristics also influence how high someone aims, and we see this all the time. Dominant personalities tend to aim high, whereas Steady ones tend to aim low.  And of course, you can only get what you ask for.

James Patrick (JP):

Another factor is how important the relationship is for you. If you’re selling a car, you’re probably never going to see the other person again and so the relationship component is not very important.

You might therefore choose to aim very high in your initial offer.

And do you think gender plays a role in valuing the relationship more than the winning?


Maybe yes. The theory says men live in a competitive environment, where hierarchy and winning and losing are crucial.

Women’s world, on the contrary, is more flat-structured, and demands an ethical team approach and equality. So, in theory, women care about preserving the relationship more than about winning.

Can everyone learn to negotiate?


Of course. Some people will still have a better aptitude, but negotiation is definitely a learnable skill. We’re all living examples of that.

We learn to negotiate with our parents and figure out what works. Children know if they scream loudly, they’re more likely to get what they want.

If everybody can learn, what happens with our personality?  Do we learn to act against it or do we change it?


We do two things: one, we learn to understand our own flaws and weaknesses, and offset those.  And two, we learn to understand other people’s personality types and adapt our negotiation style to those.

However, the critical part of negotiation is “nego” [think: ‘N-Ego’ or ‘No Ego’], which could be interpreted as ‘denying the ego.’

One must learn to put the ego aside and focus on an outcome that’s a win-win for all.

What commonalities, if any, have you found when training women in negotiation?


As you mentioned, the key is the relationship component. Women tend to be better at it, less adversarial.

On the down side, we also see more women not anchoring high enough in the first place, being too quick to move lower and moving lower in too large an increment.

As a consequence, they are more likely to achieve a deal, yes, but will they leave value on the table?

In your experience, what do women usually find more difficult in negotiation?


Probably, women’s preference for flat environments and equality makes negotiation less of a competition and leads them to being less ambitious.

But it’s ambition that puts you in the mindset to aim high. You must believe in your worth. If you don’t, you’re ready to move lower even before the negotiation’s started.

When you say to yourself something like, “I don’t think they’ll pay that much,” you’ve started to negotiate with yourself before you’ve even gotten in front of the client.

What common negotiation mistakes have you found women make more often than men?


We see women could use more specific language.  For example, somebody asks you, “So, Carolina, what price will you charge us?”  And you reply with, “Well, we’d be interested in a fee around $6,500” or “A range of let’s say between $6,000 and $6,500.”

That’s floppy language, not specific. You’re signaling that you’re willing to move. And of course, your counterpart will choose the range that benefits them.

Do you think you need to be aggressive to be a good negotiator?


Absolutely not. Aggressive is bad; assertive is good.

You demonstrate assertiveness in the clarity and confidence of your opening statement. And stylistically, by using authoritative language, good eye contact, dominant body language, and by following the steps of negotiation to ensure that you don’t roll over and cave in after five minutes.

Does not fearing conflict help someone succeed in negotiations?


Negotiating is managing conflict. That’s why you succeed in negotiations when you take your ego out of the equation and focus on an outcome that benefits both sides.

That’s principled negotiation. You separate the person from the problem and don’t let personalities get in the way.

How would you help women to shift from a service mindset to one in which they stick to what they want?


It’s all about planning.  Plan your approach, your numbers. Figure out exactly what your gold, silver, and bronze prizes are, and the steps you’re going to take to reach these.

Planning is crucial because you do it when there’s no adrenaline and no competition; you’re likely to be much more objective.

In the middle of a negotiation, however, you might feel competitive, nervous or tense. This can lead to mistakes or unintended moves.

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