We negotiate things big and small constantly, often without even noticing it. Despite this, many feel uneasy when facing an important negotiation. Often, we’re also not good at it.
In this episode of the Wholegrain Leadership Podcast, I speak with Anja Henningsmeyer. She is an expert on communications and negotiation and works as a trainer and coach. She has recently published a book specifically looking at how women negotiate. Among other things, we discuss:
About my guest
Anja Henningsmeyer has excelled in many jobs. She was a journalist, manager of a film festival, and a photo agency owner in Hong Kong. Since 2008 she heads the Hessian Film and Media Academy (Hessische Film- und Medienakademie), a network of thirteen public universities in the German state of Hesse. Also, she is a university lecturer and trainer for successful communication (presentation, networking, and negotiation).
Anja’s book is called Denn sie wissen, was sie tun: Wie Frauen erfolgreich verhandeln and was published by Campus-Verlag in 2019. It is available as paperback, ebook and audio book.
Matthias: Negotiating is one of the most important tasks of a leader. And we negotiate all of the time, all of us, but many of us aren’t doing it particularly well. We make lots of mistakes. We don’t get to the results that we should, and therefore today we will talk about how to negotiate.
Welcome to another episode of the Wholegrain Leadership Podcast. As I said, today, we will talk about negotiation, and I’m sitting here with Anja Henningsmeyer. Anja has done many different things in her life.
She was a journalist. She managed a film festival and she was the owner of a image agency, a photo agency in Hong Kong, and since 2008 she is the hat of the Hessian Film and Media Academy, which is a network of universities in the state of Hesse here in, in Germany. And there she is the managing director, but that is not actually the reason why she is here today with me.
In addition to her day job, she is also a trainer and coach who works on different issues around communication, presentation and negotiation. She has written a book that came out this year, unfortunately, so far, only in German, but maybe we can change that in the future. And the book is called “Denn sie wissen, was sie tun” and the subtitle is “Wie Frauen erfolgreich verhandeln”.
And that translates roughly into English “Because they know what they are doing. How women negotiate successfully”. It was published in 2019 this year with Campus publishing house. I think here in Frankfurt. Welcome to the show Anja!
Anja: Yes. Thank you.
Matthias: Great to have you here. Now, why is negotiation way and negotiation skills so important in life?
Anja: Oh, the answer is very obvious. You do it all your life, right? You start as a child for let’s say, sweets and attention, and as an adult, you negotiate for so many issues for money. . Tasks. Your needs, you negotiate more often than you are aware. So that’s why a lot of universities know that it’s a key competency.
No longer a soft skill. It’s a key competency. Right. And a child, you have sometimes limited means you negotiate more. You often use forms of pressure, crying, shouting, tantrums to get your demands through. But in business you should, uh, at least then do it sometimes more refined to fulfill some social standards, I will say.
And also to preserve the relationship to your negotiation partner.
Matthias: If we do it so often, why do I have this feeling that a lot of us don’t really like to do it and we’re not, we have this feeling that we’re not doing it as well as we could.
Anja: Because it lies in the nature of what negotiation is, and negotiation is a conflict and we don’t like conflicts in our life.
We like to live more in a harmonious way. You can’t do anything about it. It’s a conflict. And we have to learn to see the playful aspect of negotiation, which is in fact. The game of giving and taking of exchange.
Matthias: You mentioned that we negotiate all the time. Sometimes it’s obvious, so if people think, for example, of a salary negotiation at work or if you want to buy something like a house or a car there, everybody would agree, you know, we’re in a negotiation situation.
Can you give us some examples of other daily life negotiation situations where the listeners may not even be aware that it is also in negotiation.
Anja: For example, if you discuss with your partner which holiday destination you want to go this year, and she says, Oh, let’s go to the beach again, it’s so relaxing and you say, not again the beach.
Really, I want to go hiking in the mountain that you may, may be in the middle of a negotiation. Are tired and the super marketer trying to get you buying these kind of sweets for her or for him and um, yeah. Using means of pressure, like tantrums. I have mentioned it before. These are all negotiations. If you don’t really agree right away with what the other one you negotiate.
Matthias: Speaking of children, my impression is that children are often pretty good at negotiation
Matthias: Why do we seem to lose that skill somewhere when we grow up,
Anja: it has to do with social. Standards in society and they are, we come also to gender differences in negotiation. We learn to use language in a very conscious way.
And for example, a lot of women learn that they should be more modest and not so pushy and what they want, and so they, they do not really learn. This to play this game of giving and taking what you enjoyed as a child because you just understood better than that. Some you have to exchange things and. In addition, in German coacher it’s not implemented like in Asian cultures.
Uh, I have lived a long time in China and it was daily, daily business and try not to negotiate about everything. Everything. Um, that has changed a little bit. But, um, when I lived there, it was like that. And in Germany, negotiation has a little bit. It’s not this playful aspect, but a negative connotation, and that’s a pretty,
Matthias: so why did you decide to write this book that I mentioned?
And by the way, I will put the title in the show notes so that if you want to buy the book. You will find the link in the show notes. Why did you decide to write this book and why did you decide to write it specifically for a female audience?
Anja: During my trainings, I experienced that there is a real need for a woman to get a better understanding of how they can negotiate better pace woman negotiating their salaries is often a special issue.
First because there are some misunderstandings about placing high demands in working relationships. And second, yeah, women often feel. Being written, written, referred over due to different communication styles between the genders.
Matthias: You mentioned education plays a role there and cultural things as well.
Are there other reasons why you think that men and women negotiate this so differently?
Anja: Let’s put it right. We can talk about tendencies here. I’m not to forget that there are other genders in the world, right? But the tendencies of different negotiation styles between men and woman are unfortunately systemic.
And that leads to systemic gender imbalances. Regarding, for example, pay, not the gender pay gap is reality. And so our leadership gap, as I would call it in a lot of companies have more male than female. I think. Again, it has to do with the communications diets that usher shaped by learned language. What we learn in our childhood extends later in our business life, and women often use language in a way that foster relationships, men and people in leadership positions, men as woman as well, often use language in a way that expresses and demands status.
So. Hidden behind this different use of language, our social needs, and these needs play a crucial role in every, in every negotiation to know, negotiate successful, you need to get aware of these underlying needs. And, um, yeah, I admit it’s a very. Very, um, the picture I create you created here is painted with a very broad brush.
But in my book and in my trainings, I express these differences in communication styles. Much more detailed so we can really work with it. Uh, the second issue that women often have are gender stereotypes. In our society. There are still some biases, and this is a reside from research that a tough female negotiator.
Risks to get bad judgment for her social competency when she is as tough as a male negotiator. And this is an result of his study. So this is because there is still this unspoken gender stereotype that women should be more modest in their demands and care more for others. And what you can do if you negotiate your pay as a woman, don’t go against the stereotype, but use the leverage to go around it.
For example, by saying, I have to feed my children, or I have to care for my family, and that’s why I need a pay rise that would serve this gender bias and make you seem more social competent because you don’t ask for yourself. But for the others, it would be a a way to go around this bias.
Matthias: That’s interesting because that seems to be a good way to get out of this trap situation whereby women, and you describe this in your book, obviously they are, either they are being judged as being too pushy or too aggressive and they’re being seen in a negative way.
Or if they are too modest, then obviously they are, they may be lacked, but they don’t get what they deserve. So it’s kind of a bit of a catch 22 position. Now we’ve framed this, these structural or cultural differences in a bit of a. Negative way as putting women at a natural disadvantage. Now, you describe in your book that women traditionally place more emphasis on relationship building, for example, but couldn’t that also be an advantage in a negotiation situation because women are better at reading, maybe interpersonal issues, emotions and so on and so forth.
Could you also turn it around and see that they have advantages in certain ways?
Anja: Yes, of course. Every person who understands that you always negotiate between two points. One point is the stakes. What is at stake? Uh, what are the issues here? And. Of course, you always really have a relationship to your negotiation partner and people who understand this that you always have.
Also, the relationship at stake are. A priori, the better negotiators because they know they have to balance it out. And if you think, for example, if you have family, you have family, you have also children, uh, I think you will negotiate very often. Much more internet common dating style with your children because you like to preserve the relationship with them.
And more often you say would say it’s not so important to, to push these demands through because it’s more important to, to have a good relationship with my child in a one time transaction task. Maybe you can push much harder because the relationship is not so high,
Matthias: but it’s draws it in the at least intuitively.
Is that right? I would say the majority of important negotiations tend to be those with people that we have kind of repeat business with. So yeah, maybe there may be a high stake, a onetime transaction, for example, if you’re buying a house or something. Yeah. Maybe you’re not likely to buying a house.
Second time from the same person, but the majority of important negotiations are either with your spouse or you know, your family or with your Boston workwear. It’s also of course, important that you maintain a good relationship.
Anja: Yeah, I agree.
Matthias: Let’s get a little bit to the, the process of negotiation itself, and what I found interesting is that despite all the differences that we’ve talked about between men and women, there are also a lot of similarities and a lot of.
Common difficulties. So when I read the book, I found it useful also for myself. So that was a, there was good. And you have one chapter in the book where you talk about the three most common mistakes. And I find it interesting that you use an example from a serious house of cards, which many of the listeners may have seen.
If not, you should, because it’s say a very well made serious. Could you maybe walk us through either the scene if you like, but at least the kind of the three mistakes that you highlight there.
Anja: Hmm. The first mistake, um, has to do with preparation. Maybe I give an example that’s better. Uh, how, how should you prepare for a negotiation?
You never just go into a negotiation with just one claim. Because then you don’t have a margin. For example, you go into a salary or a or a price negotiation. You always should set a minimum and a maximum for you. I’m talking about preparation here right. So let’s say you have research that the standard pay in your business is 48,000 per year to fifty one thousand forty eight thousand would be your minimum.
Pay you negotiate four and 51,000 would be the maximum and you start with the maximum and you will not go under the minimum. The minimum, we will call the walkaway point because then you really walk out of the negotiation. Otherwise you would get get frustrated. And that’s a, that can, this negotiation with your frustrated being inside of you won’t never stops.
So, um, that’s very important that you understand the importance of the German, um, walk away point. But that’s just the start of a preparation. And then you assemble much more claims you can take with you claims. Like. Remunerations like what’s a a job ticket? Home office, possibility of working from home, a flexible working hours, whatever.
A lot of remunerations that claims that really have a value for yourself and you can take for this game of giving and taking this exchange game. That’s very important for the preparation. So never walk into. Um, salary negotiation by just trying to negotiate about that number. You, you’re not flexible enough for this giving and taking them.
That’s one thing. And the second thing is emotions. You should not be led by emotions. And the third one is you should always have your concentration on the, um, on the process and not negotiating with yourself in the negotiation. That means preparation is key. You need to be very, very well prepared.
Otherwise you cannot focus completely on the process, on the, on the other one. Because to negotiate successfully, you should negotiate in the world of the other and not in your world.
Matthias: Now the Parisian, I understand, I mean, that’s something you can do before . What happens if you either don’t have the information?
I mean, this is something that often happens in salary negotiations, especially when you maybe starting out in a business you don’t really have an understanding or you don’t really know the a the range. That would make sense. What can you do?
Anja: Preparation means you need to do a lot of research. So you go to the internet, you check, um, you can find a lot of statistics on the internet.
What is the general pace? What are these general pay standards in my, uh, in my profession, in my branch? Um, you can also ask colleagues, you can ask people who are more experienced already working in that branch. So, and of course, you, you need also to have a good calculation of what is your real minimum, what do you need for your life?
So are there are a lot of different factors that, um. They’d have an influence on the pay and you need to do this research. Well,
Matthias: clear points well-taken. Now the next thing you mentioned is emotions, and you said, well, you should leave the emotions out of it. Well, this may be rationally understandable, that’s easier said than done, right?
Because the nature of emotions is that we cannot control them. How can you cope with emotions, especially when you feel maybe stressed or maybe you’re anxious about the situation.
Anja: Uh, emotions play a very dangerous role in negotiations because they, if they get in, in the way, it can blow up your whole strategy.
So even positive emotions are dangerous. For example, if we feel flattered, we may say too fast yes. To something we regret later. Right. An example, huh? Mathias? I know you are so experienced and strategy plan in strategic planning. I need your expertise. Can you help me with the class tomorrow?
Matthias: Of course
Anja: I asked you because, yeah, I asked you because you, you have always been such a reliable team player and that wasn’t with your free evening with family, family and friends.
Right? So it’s really important dealing with emotions, positive or negative, during negotiations and suppressing emotions. Uh, I would say is not an option because it takes a lot of energy suppressing emojis, um, emotions and the energy, as I said before, we need to focus on what’s going on in the process of negotiation.
So I always recommend. To label the emotion you feel it’s coming out up like I’m getting angry, or I’m, I’m stressed silently for yourself. Put a label on it and then you can decide how to deal with it. Will I push this emotion aside and say, okay, I’m getting angry, but still, I can, uh, have a rational thinking.
I have a rational now ideas, I can still listen very attentively, or will I need to have a break and, um, go out? And that’s important not to suppress the emotions. Try to label them silently to yourself, or sometimes you can also decide to speak the emotion out, huh? To say I’m, you know, I’m quite disappointed about the present conditions.
You, you present me here. Uh, what can we do about it? And you can also speak it out if you feel that your negotiation partner is getting emotional as well.
Matthias: Is that also a good strategy? If you feel that the other side is trying to manipulate you in a way emotionally, that you make it transparent so that they notice that you’re looking through their
I think you should be clear what emotions are productive to speak about and what emotions, if you speak about them, will be more like an insult or so, I would never say I’m angry now because we can’t deal with my anger. Right. As long as you can stay on the factual level. It’s better for negotiation. What is never good is to insult someone and to say, I have the feeling you are manipulating me.
Here is an insult, so it will not help us. Both
Matthias: my emotions are one thing, but obviously the other side will also have emotions and they may or they may not be aware of them. So how do I handle the emotions of my
Anja: counterpart? Same. Same thing. Bring them. To light. Of course, it would always be better to do it in a more neutral language, like it sounds as if you are disappointed.
Not, I think you are disappointed because it’s not me here. I’m on stake in our negotiation. It’s, um, more better to say it in a neutral way and say it sounds as if you are disappointed or if you are, um, unsecure. And then the other can, can say something about it.
Matthias: I mean, this is something maybe many listeners have also experienced that in particular in a more kind of personal negotiation situations.
If you do that, and for example, you’ll say to your partner and say, you know who’s getting very upset and you tell them, look, honey, you need to calm down. Or sometimes this may have the opposite effect. It made the experience so that it gets worse. Actually, they get more upset.
Anja: Absolutely. I agree. That’s not a recommendation.
What you said, it’s kind of ordering someone do something you should come down. In a negotiation, I should avoid to tell the other what he or she should do. What is always better to serve his or her autonomy. Autonomy is a social need, a very important social need. We all have. Autonomy means you have the choice to do this or that to decide and to decide.
That gives you us, us to be able to decide. That means you can create this situation. You have influence on the situation, and that’s much better than have someone ordering you around or telling you what you should do. You should always try to avoid this situation, so never push someone by saying he should do or she should do this or that.
That’s not a good way of negotiating.
Matthias: Talking about needs, you’re writing in your book that often there is, you know, the, the apparent negotiation that’s going on about a salary or by the purchase of a good or something like that, but that there’s often also a second level of needs that the year negotiators have and that they.
May not even be aware of. You mentioned one, this is autonomy. What are other common needs that people should pay attention to? Button are maybe not aware of.
Anja: A lot of people know this. Um, mass low. I think in English it’s Maslow hierarchy of needs. It’s a pyramid and it’s, it talks about primary needs and social needs and social needs are secondary.
But the modern neuroscience has found out that social needs are no longer, or they have never been secondary. If you heard the social needs, it’s processed in the same brain region, then the physical hurting that makes clear that it’s really, really important for our brains. The social need. It’s not just secondary.
It’s as important as primary need for O’Brien. These five needs, you can leave. You can name them because modern neuroscience has means to them to measure them with the hormones that are in your, in your body. The scarf model relies on the book of David drugs, your brain at work. It’s named scarf because it puts the Fife, uh, the first letter of the Fife.
A social needs in one word, S for status, C for certainty, a for autonomy are for relatedness and F of fairness. And these five social needs are. At every absolutely every negotiation table and in my courses, I always say, tell this story about the biggest merger and acquisition in the U S it was the merger off a first union corporation with cos States financial corporation, a $16 billion deal.
And that was endangered because of one of the, the negotiators have feared for his social needs. This owner show needs, plays a crucial role across the role in every negotiation. And we need to have a keen observation, which social needs is here need is here at the table with me and plays a role in this negotiation.
Matthias: we often go into negotiations, the thinking that we’re talking about salary and actually what we’re trying to negotiate. Is a higher status, or we want to be recognized more, or we see our autonomy threatened in some way. Is that what you
Anja: say? For example? Oh, we just wanted to be treated fair because I have worked so many years here for this institution.
I really need to be treated fair and get a pay rise because all my other colleagues have already paid rights or things like that. But yes.
Matthias: Is there a process or a tool that you can use to, first of all, find out what your own needs are? But then also, and you mentioned the importance of preparation to train to find out what the other person’s needs may be concretely in a situation that’s more difficult, right, than salary.
We talked about salary. Yes. You can ask other people, you know, you can maybe look it up on the internet. You know what the salary ranges for such a position in that city. But it’s more difficult to understand what the particular needs of your counterpart may be in a situation. So what, what’s the situation your boss is in or, or you know,
Anja: how do you do that?
That is a tool, keen observation. That’s the first and very important tool of every negotiator you need to learn to observe. Very attentively. What? What is happening in the negotiation room on the body language level, on the verbal level, you really need to listen and observe, and that means you need to be prepared perfectly that you don’t have to ask.
Yourself about something, but your concentration can be completely on the other. That’s the first tool. I have sharpened my observation, and that’s why I teach, uh, with, I like to teach with a firm examples because we analyze them. The second thing is you need to ask a lot of questions more asking than talking yourself.
That’s negotiation. For the game of giving and taking. You need munition. And this munition is based on information. So negotiation is also an information game. The more information you have about your counterpart, the more you can gain what we call in, um, negotiation language. Uh, leverage. Leverage is what helps you to gain negotiation power.
It’s not your hierarchy, it’s the knowledge of the other, what he really wants, what he doesn’t want, and what is relevant to him or
Matthias: her. Let’s talk a little bit about the culture background. You mentioned that at the beginning of our conversation and you, when you lived in China, you experienced very difficult, different, you know, cultural norms around negotiation.
Many of our listeners will be an international situations because business is global, so it’s just very natural to be negotiating with somebody from another cultural background or maybe even a situation where are different people from more than two cultural backgrounds? What do you see as main differences?
Maybe if you can say so, and how do you deal with that?
Anja: I think behind Kartra differences are often fundamentally different views of what communication should do for human interaction. So it’s very basic. And I think, for example, we Westerners, we like to search for an abstract truth and for objective knowledge, knowledge, we have no problem to engage in controversial discussions, for example, we like that.
Sometimes. But Asians, as I have experienced, um, Asian or Chinese, uh, uh, in the people’s Republic of China, Asians on the contrary, they tend to balance opposites and to resolve these opposites by more by consensus. There is a. Wonderful thousand year old saying by loud. So this Chinese file it a philosopher who said people have been going crazy for ages.
Therefore the Sage brings together and does not separate. And this is exactly the opposite of confrontational discussions, bringing things together instead of pointing out where are the differences. So I would not expect an Asian negotiation partner to be as Ford forthright as a westerner. I need to listen more between the lines with my Asian negotiating partner.
And in general negotiations take more time as the outcome is built. More on personal understanding, personal relationship, and then on written contracts. Would
Matthias: that suggest that women are maybe an advantage in that situation? Because that leads us back to the relationship part and the relationship building.
When you say that women are better in by and large than men, would that place them at an advantage?
Anja: No, I wouldn’t say like this. I would say the one who is more open to what the other really says and more open to listen and not to judge so quickly. That one would be in advantage. There is another interesting difference that have a huge effect on negotiation and that comes from a study by a professor, Amy Cuddy and her colleagues and that study highlighted the different ways we interpret the behavior of others.
For example, if I think, Oh, this negotiator behaves a very reticent because he’s not interested in me as a customer, for example, then ISU, it’s his individual decision. He’s not interested in me, but maybe the reason is that he is, it’s not common in his Kartra to deal with a female negotiator like me. And then it would be S a situational circumstance would be the correct interpretation of his behavior.
So according to that study, I found that very interesting. North Americans in particular, they tend to impose their own individual motivations on others. And which is not surprising because it’s a very, the U S culture is a very individualistic culture as the Germans are true. So when we interpret events or human behavior from our own Kartra standpoints, that can lead to gross misunderstandings during a negotiation.
So it’s always better to be very, very open. What are, or let’s say, to understand first what is normal. In that culture, what, which is in front of my eyes. What is normal there? What, what, uh, what they defined, what kind of prevailing working structures do they have there? And if I don’t understand that, I’m very tempted to, to automatically classify that behavior according to my perspective.
Matthias: I know we use slowly to come to an end, but at the beginning you mentioned that negotiation is a game that we should enjoy. It’s a give and take. I’m pretty certain that the majority of our listeners will not see negotiation situations as something that the. By and large and joy. So what can you give our listeners as advice on how they can become better as negotiators so that they eventually might get to that point that you alluded to where they actually enjoy this little game of give and take?
Anja: First, I would say negotiation is a craft that is ruined by training. You really need to train it to use it, and it’s a combination of patience and also of mercy lists, self reflection. That is also really important to be clear. You can’t be right in a negotiation. If you want to play the game, I am right and you are wrong.
I would say go to court. I’m also a lay assessor at the district court in Frankfurt, but in negotiation is not about being right or wrong, and negotiation is to understand that you have just your own concept of reality and the reality of the other person may look completely different, so be very humble.
To explore with all the questions you can think about, to explore the word of the others and understand his or her concept of how he sees the world. Ask a lot of question about how the other sees the thing. The issue we negotiate about will help you to get really win win situations and not, they’re just the maximum out for yourself.
And the last thing I would say, remember that you always negotiate for something and not against someone. That’s why I always recommend to see your negotiation partner as a partner. It’s not your adversary, it’s not your Contra hand. It’s your partner on your way to your goal.
Matthias: We’ve talked about.
Relationship building and the importance of maintaining a relationship. Why is that so important to, couldn’t you just say, well, you know, my purpose is to get as much as possible and uh, I don’t care whether I screw the other person or not.
Anja: I always say your reputation is your social capital, and it’s not you who determines your reputation.
The other one. It’s your counterpart who, um, who determines how he sees you and your behavior. Okay. And if you are seen as an unethical, inconsistent, Orascom plus negotiator who is just caring for his advantages, you will have sooner or later to deal with mistrust and isolation, which is a very bad position.
For negotiator Y. As I explained, um, people will no longer cooperate with you or share information with you if they don’t share information with you. You gain not in much. You gain not enough information to have the leverage you need.
Matthias: Are there any secret tricks that you can share with our listeners?
Any shortcuts to becoming a master negotiator?
Anja: I’m afraid there are no shortcuts because it’s lifelong training. And that makes it so interesting. Makes so interesting. Can lifelong learn or negotiation. And if you have children, just observe future children, they are. Brilliant master negotiators in my eyes.
Matthias: And yeah, we’ve learned a lot. Uh, and fortunately there are no shortcuts when it comes to negotiations, but it can be learned. So there are techniques that you can do to prepare. If you want to find out more, you can obviously buy book. And again, you will find the title and the link in the show notes. You can also, if you like to, at least if you live somewhere around Frankford, you can.
Go to one of seminars or book or as a coach as well. Thanks so much for being with us here today.
Anja: You’re welcome. Thank you.