Women are roughly 2-3 times less likely to initiate negotiations than men and often don’t hold out as long for their needs. Given this fairly well-documented trend, the BSA Women in Design Mentorship Committee decided to take a deep dive into the subject with three part series (Payette is a sponsor firm for the series). The first of this series took place in late October. Elen Zurabyan is a co-chair of the Mentorship Committee and organizer of the series. Payette’s Alison Laas moderated the first event.
Identifying a common problem/goal:
Jim Kostaras, who teaches negotiation both to students and to community members with whom he engages in planning their communities, reframes his negotiations as problem solving exercises around a common goal. Many people traditionally approach negotiations with an “us vs. them” mentality. Approaching negotiations in this way can lead to an intimidating and antagonistic environment. If you feel that either you or the other person in the negotiation must lose, then it may be easy to lose confidence or more difficult to reach a conclusion with which all parties in the negotiation are happy. Instead, if everyone involved reimagines the negotiation as an effort to solve a common problem then people are much more likely to consider options, come up with new ideas and compromise on points that are less important to them in pursuit of their common goal. It was interesting to hear from the panelists that women often excel at this type of collaborative, problem-solving negotiation. While many women are intimidated by antagonistic negotiation situations, reframing negotiation into a collaborative problem-solving activity fosters successful outcomes and confidence.
BIG N & small n:
One point that resonated with many people in attendance was the idea of Big “N” / small “n,” which is a framework Jeanne Lukenda uses in negotiation. Women typically negotiate much more effectively when thinking in terms of others and not just as a singular outcome for a person. This is the idea of Big “N” Negotiation, where a negotiation is approached in thinking how terms will not only benefit you as the negotiator, but how they may benefit a larger community. Jeanne mentioned that as she walked into a negotiation, she was negotiating on the behalf of not only herself but her larger network, and by way of an example – her spouse, her family, other women within the profession and, even jokingly, her cat. I think often women tackle the negotiation process as a small “n” exercise, and it can be intimidating to think of the negotiation in only reference to you, as a singular individual. Arming yourself with the idea that a negotiation may benefit your larger community is a powerful idea.
Knowing what your “walk-away point” is or BATNA:
An important factor when entering a negotiation is determining what your “walk-away point” is. This concept was developed by Roger Fisher and William Ury and described in their book “Getting to Yes.” A strong BATNA or Best Alternative to Negotiated Agreement can be developed by considering the following:
- Brainstorm a list of all available alternatives that might be considered should the negotiation fail to render a favorable agreement.
- Choosing the most promising alternatives and expand them into practical and attainable alternatives
- Identifying the best of the alternatives and keeping it in reserve as a fallback during the negotiation.
Being prepared to walk away from a negotiation allows the negotiator to adopt a more firm and forceful stance when proposing ideas and interests as the basis for an agreement.
Design thinking in negotiations:
One interesting framework brought up by the panel is to look at negotiations as a design exercise. Every day as architects and designers we work through much iteration in the design process. Negotiations can be seen similarly. Too often in negotiations, we fixate on one outcome as the only possible path forward, but in the context of design, we think about all the permutations that can be applied to a design problem. The fluidity of arriving at a solution to a design problem is just one additional way to approach negotiation by using the training and everyday skills we bring to our design work.
5 pillars of negotiation from Joanne Linowes:
- Plan a conversation in a linear way with back-ups (when they can be predicted).
- Know what the other side knows before going into a negotiation. Do your homework.
- It’s not only about you, think about what’s in it for them.
- Agree first and then … frame your point of view.
- Summarize what you hear and then repeat it.
We negotiate every day:
Many of the tips from the panel discussion focused on reframing the way we think of negotiation as a way to engage in negotiation more frequently and make is easier when we do. To make negotiation less intimidating, one suggestion from Jeanne Lukenda was to think about the negotiations that you already engage in every day. You might not think about these everyday negotiations while they are happening, but recognizing that you do in fact negotiate often in your life can make facing more formal negotiations more comfortable. Do you compromise with your friends or your spouse when deciding which restaurant to go to for dinner? Do you talk with your children about how much time they can spend playing video games or how many bites of vegetables they have to eat? If we can reframe more formal negotiations about promotions, finances, contracts, etc. with the same feeling as we engage in these smaller negotiations, we can feel more confident and comfortable with them.
Jeanne Lukenda, Co-chair of Women’s Principal Group at BSA and former principal at CRJA
Mia Scharphie, Founder of the Build Yourself+ Workshop
Joanne Linowes, Career Coach with Linowes Executive Development Institute
Carrie Hawley, Senior Principal at HLB Lighting Design and co-chair of the Women’s Principal Group at the BSA
James Kostaras, Expert in Negotiation and Conflict Resolution in Urban Design and Development