3 Tips for Finding Your Negotiation Voice

Recently, I read an NYT Opinion Article by Adam Grant titled ‘Women Know Exactly What They’re Doing When They Use ‘Weak Language.’

The article about the “voice” and “language” women – and men – use to navigate their careers and advocate for themselves stuck with me because I’ve experienced much of this in my career. In my 50s, I’m still conscious about striking the “right” tone in professional settings and negotiations.

Grant writes in the piece:

“New evidence reveals that it’s not ambition per se that women are being penalized for. In fact, women who are perceived as intelligent and capable, determined and achievement-oriented, independent and self-reliant are seen as more promotable to leadership positions.

The problem arises if people perceive them to be forceful, controlling, commanding and outspoken. These are qualities for which men are regularly given a pass, but they put women at
risk of being disliked and denied for leadership roles.”

In 29 studies, women in a variety of situations had a tendency to use more “tentative language” than men. But that language doesn’t reflect a lack of assertiveness or conviction. Rather, it’s a way to convey interpersonal sensitivity — interest in other people’s perspectives — and that’s why it’s powerful.

Gender stereotypes don’t hurt only women — they often hold men back too. And just as women are liked less if they’re seen as arrogant and disagreeable, men are liked less and paid less if they come across as too modest and too agreeable”.

The article prompted me to explore my experiences, voice, and professional observations with clients. When have I been most successful in negotiating? When have my clients, both male and female physicians negotiating their compensation and employment agreements, been most successful? Can I put my finger on the keys to negotiating success? What’s the secret sauce?

First, let’s cut through the noise. We hear so much about how to negotiate, how women are perceived vs. men, how to “tone it down” or “stand up for yourself,” to “lean in,” to “make our table.” It’s very easy to get in your head and overthink this, use a voice that isn’t yours, and lose what I consider our individual “superpower” – authenticity.

Think about it, the people we most respect and gravitate to are deeply knowledgeable, comfortable in their skin, and the fullness of their power. We trust them because, on a primal level, we recognize they are honest, authentic, confident, and humble.

Grant makes an important distinction:

“Assertiveness is advocating for yourself. Aggressiveness is attacking others. Standing up for yourself isn’t pushy — it means you’re not a pushover. It’s not a selfish act but an act of self-

In my personal experience . . .

and with my clients, I know this to be true: advocating for yourself successfully isn’t a matter of intentionally using “weak language” or “aggressive tactics”; it comes down to three things:

  1. Make a Compelling Case.
    Bottom line – do your homework. There is no substitute for being the most prepared person in the room. Data is a powerful tool to make your case and help you know your value.
  2. Use Your Authentic Voice.
    You can’t fake this, nor should you. Engaging in a conversation or negotiation with honesty and transparency builds trust. We gravitate to and want to work with people we trust.
  3. Channel Confident Humility.
    Aim to strike a balance. Be confident in your strengths and what you bring to the table, and be open to active listening, questioning your strategies, and adjusting and navigating as needed.
    This is the sweet spot where successful collaboration blossoms.

I read once that “people with clear minds are like magnets,” and I’ve found that to be both profound and true. I believe it’s really this simple…when you make a strong case, use your voice, and collaborate with confidence, it results in a degree of clarity that is incredibly powerful and persuasive – like a magnet.

Cheers to developing your voice, knowing your worth, and negotiating successfully!

Are you a physician ready to navigate and negotiate compensation opportunities? Contact us at SCC to review compensation for your specialty and understand the benchmarks to negotiate your value.

Knowledge is Power. Know Your Value.