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A recent study from UC Berkely has discovered that women can use flirtation as a very effective negotiation technique.  This is not true, however for men.  Flirtatiousness, female friendliness, or the more diplomatic description “feminine charm” is an effective way for women to gain negotiating mileage, according to a new study by Haas School Professor Laura Kray.

Two experiments were conducted.  The first rated negotiating partners effectiveness based upon whether they used social charm or not.  The study found that women that used higher levels of social charm were considered more effective as negotiators; whereas the charm had no effect on the evaluation of the male negotiatiors.

The second study determined whether a participant would reduce the price of a $1,200 car based upon reading a story of a potential buyer as being a serious female or a socially acceptable flirtatious female.  The result? Male sellers were willing to give the “playful Sue” more than $100 off the selling price whereas they weren’t as willing to negotiate with the “serious Sue.” Playful Sue’s behavior did not affect female car sellers.

For both sexes, it is important to be able to understand that this phenomenon exists.  For women, they can use this knowledge to work on a better negotiated result.  For, men it is important to understand that this form of socially acceptable manipulation can occur and that it could be a negotiating tactic rather than this particular woman wanting to come on to you.


By Steven G. Mehta

I don’t need to be told twice that men and women are very different in the way that they react to everything.  The fact is that gender differences research is very important because men and women do react so very differently to specific situations.  A recent study reflects how the different genders reflect on failure.

Here is the abstract of the article How do women account for failure when they expect success? by Verna-Jean Amell Semkow and Michael McCarrey

Recent research suggests that men and women account for failures differently. Competent, self-aware men discount failures; competent, self-aware women accept them. This style of accounting for failure outcomes in achievement has been explored in studies of attribution and, more recently, the expectancies an individual holds regarding the outcome (to fail or succeed). The theories do not predict acceptance of failure by competent, self-aware individuals. The incongruent results have been consequently explained as a sex difference. Closer evaluation of the research, however, indicates that most women expect failure rather than success, and that this is a learned expectation. This study attempted to answer whether an exposure to success experiences would alter this expectancy and, if so, whether women would then discount failures in a self-serving manner as men do. Through a manipulation of success and failure outcomes using anagram tasks, it was demonstrated that, given an expectation to succeed, women did use systematic biased attributions to account for failure. These findings have significant implications for attribution research and for our understanding of women’s attitude towards achievement and ability to maintain a sense of well-being when faced with failure.

I think that the simple takeaway for negotiations is that prior to negotiations, there needs to be some way that an expectation of success can be given to the female negotiators.  This will serve two purposes:  First, other studies have shown that the greater the expectation of success, the better the negotiator will do in the negotiations regardless of gender.  Creating an expectation of success will help the negotation process.  Second, if the negotiation fails, based upon this research, women might discount the failure more and be more ready get into other similar negotiations.

My concern is that the issue of not discounting failure because of the lack of expectation may have greater long term ramifications.  Specifically, this could create a cycle of lower expectations which could ultimately affect women’s ability to negotiate in life.

By Steven G. Mehta

There have been several studies over the years that show that slight physical contact between two people interacting is good for the connectivity of the person.  However, I just saw an article that reflects that touching might increase risk taking.  Here is an abstract of the article:

We show that minimal physical contact can increase people’s sense of security and consequently lead them to increased risk-taking behavior. In three experiments, with both hypothetical and real payoffs, a female experimenter’s light, comforting pat on the shoulder led participants to greater financial risk taking. Further, this effect was both mediated and moderated by feelings of security in both male and female participants. Finally, we established the boundary conditions for the impact of physical contact on risk-taking behaviors by demonstrating that the effect does not occur when the touching is performed by a male and is attenuated when the touch consists of a handshake. The results suggest that subtle physical contact can be strongly influential in decision making and the willingness to accept risk.

To see the full article, click here

This research could have some interesting implications for female mediators.  It suggests that they should be conscious of “touch” because it could inadvertently affect the decision makers.  The good news, however, is that women have certain powers that men will never have and that science is only now learning about.

By Steven G. Mehta

Since March is National Women’s History Month, I thought it would be interesting to add a small contribution to the information regarding gender differences.  Vickie Pynchon has been dedicating this month in her blog to writing about gender bias that continues to exist in the profession.  Her theme has been to show that bias can be demonstrated in many ways in which we may not think about.  Well another example of that potential bias is in the way we identify names.  Think of the traditional introduction in a wedding.  I now introduce you to Mr. and Mrs. John Doe.  Well a recent study shows that putting male names before female names in writing is a remnant of sexist thinking. This is the finding of a study published in the British Journal of Social Psychology by Dr Peter Hegarty and colleagues of the University of Surrey.

Dr Hegarty said: “In the 16th century, naming men before women became the acceptable word-order to use because of the thinking that men were the worthier sex. This grammar has continued with ‘Mr and Mrs’, ‘his and hers’ and the names of romantic couples like Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. While the original sexist ideas behind this grammar are no longer accepted, we wanted to investigate whether the sexist habit of male names coming before female names still holds true and the psychological reasons why this might be.”

The researchers investigated the modern written context of the internet. Using 10 popular British boys and girls names and 10 popular American boys and girls names, the team searched the internet using each of the possible male-female name pairs as search terms, for both the male name first — i.e. ‘David and Sarah’, and then female name first — ‘Sarah and David’.

The results of this search found that for the British name pairs, the male-first name pairings accounted for 79 per cent of the mentions, and female-first pairs only 21 per cent. For the American names this was 70 per cent of the mentions were male-first and 30 per cent for female-first.

Dr Hegarty said: “These results were found to be statistically significant, and support the idea that gender stereotypes still affect the written language. It has been argued that the male-first effect isn’t down to sexism but that it is due to phonological attributes of male names, or because male names come more readily to mind as they are popular and familiar. We therefore carried out further studies to investigate whether the male-first finding was a gender stereotyping effect.”

One hundred and 21 people were asked to imagine a heterosexual couple who were either ‘quite traditional and who conform strictly to gender scripts about how the two genders should behave’ or ‘non-traditional who deviate radically’. They were then asked to write down five name-combinations for their imaginary couple.

Participants named the imagined ‘traditional couples’ men-first more often than chance, but this effect was not seen for the naming of ‘non-traditional’ couples.

In a third study, 86 people were asked to write down names of an imagined lesbian or gay couple. Participants were then asked to assign attributes such as annual earnings, interest in fashion, interest in sport and physical attributes to each individual — for example Simon is physically stronger than John. Participants assigned significantly more of the masculine attributes and fewer of the feminine attributes to the person they named first.

Dr Hegarty said: “The results of our studies suggest that people tend to put men, or male qualities, before women. As this is a remnant of the sexist grammar of the 16th century, it would seem that psychologically, we are still sexist in writing.”

Gender discrimination can be very pervasive yet hidden in front of our faces.  It is important to understand that bias can and does exist.  Only then can we begin to combat these biases that we may have.

Research Source:

British Psychological Society (BPS) (2010, March 12). Men, not ladies, first: We’re still sexist in writing. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 22, 2010, from

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