October 5, 2009
I made a presentation last week on “Gender in Mediation: Negotiation & the Gender Divide” (sponsored by Associates in Dispute Resolution – my friends and colleagues Larry Rute, Patrick Nichols . . . http://www.adrmediate.com/) and am REALLY glad to have that behind me. Don’t get me wrong, I am fascinated by this topic and enjoyed every minute of the reading I did to prepare. It’s just that there’s so much out there and it’s such a complex and nuanced subject that it’s hard to distill into an hour’s worth of useful, organized information. It’s also a pretty volatile topic – we all have a gender and we all have a point of view. Cutting to the chase – and without going into the whole topic of stereotypes and perceptions and why or whether men and women think and communicate differently and who is better at negotiating under what circumstances - here are some thoughts about how mediators, advocates or parties to a negotiation can help keep gender from getting in the way.
First identify where gender-nuanced dynamics may play a role in communication/negotiation, such as: advocate and party; opposing parties; mediator advocate/party; opposing advocates; multiple representatives of the same party (insurance company, spouses, business partners, company president, human resources professional, etc.). Then:
- Recognize Your Own Biases & Preconceptions. We all have them.
- Better Define the Process. Studies show that gender tends to have more of an effect in high ambiguity negotiations than where the process is strictly defined and understood.
- Identify Gender Triggers. Men tend to negotiate better in a highly competitive negotiation while women tend to do better when negotiating for others.
- Take Control of the Shadow Negotiation. The shadow negotiation is kind of like the metadata of electronically stored information and is that underlying web that encompasses how people treat each other, who gets heard, how cooperative they will be.
- But Avoid Appearing To Be Judgmental. You know what I mean. . .
- Don’t Automatically Identify Competence By Gender Or Stereotypical Behavior. Beware of assuming woman lack subject matter expertise.
- Don’t Misread Style Differences. Don’t mistake a more collaborative or cooperative approach to mediation as a signal of weakness in position or resilience OR an effort to manipulate.
- Properly Perceive The Impact Of An Apology. It isn’t always a sign of weakness or admission of liability.
- Consider The Effect of Gender On Credibility. Think strategically about demonstrating competence and trustworthiness to develop credibility.
- Understand Gender Styles To Keep Them From Interfering. Bringing subconscious biases, assumptions and behaviors into our conscious mind will help us to be more effective in dispute resolution.