Two Simple Reminders That Improve Negotiation Outcomes: Dr. Julia Bear
According to research, women's monetary negotiation outcomes improved when they did two things before negotiating:
1. Recalling the last three times they were assertive
2. Imagining that they are negotiating for a friend.
In this episode, I interview one of the co-authors of this research, Julia Bear.
We explored this research, why what and how we think impact our negotiation results, and how we can apply research like this to improve our negotiation outcomes.
Julia Bear is an Associate Professor in the College of Business at Stony Brook University. Dr. Bear’s research focuses on the influence of gender on negotiation outcomes, as well as conflict management in organizations. In her research, she investigates what factors, both individual and situational, influence the gender gap typically seen in negotiation outcomes, and how an understanding of these factors can help to reduce this gender gap in both initiation of negotiation and negotiation performance.
Link to the research: Negotiating Femininity
Other resources mentioned include:
HBR article: 10 Myths about Negotiating Your First Salary
Book: Women Don't Ask
Full Episode Transcript
Hello! Welcome to Episode 60 of Born to Thrive with Jamie Lee. I’m your host and coach - now a certified coach, thank you very much! - Jamie Lee.
And today, I have a really special episode for you. I have an interview with Dr. Julia Bear of Stony Brook University, who published fascinating research along with Dr. Linda Babcock - the famous Dr. Linda Babcock who co-wrote Women Don’t Ask. And Dr. Julia and Dr. Linda - all these doctors. I love it - they found that it helps women to recall two particular things before they negotiate. And when women recall these two particular things, it helps their negotiation outcomes, literally, in terms of monetary outcomes.
The first is that you recall the last three times you’ve been assertive and the second is that you imagine that you are negotiating for a friend. And I think this research is so fascinating, I think it’s so helpful because it gives us practical tools that we can implement in our negotiations.
This helps us because a lot of us have this limiting belief that women are not good negotiators and that holds us back from becoming bolder, braver, and better paid. We also have the limiting belief that, oh, I don’t really need to prepare mentally for negotiation, so I really love this research.
So, without further ado, here is the interview with Dr. Julia Bear of Stoneybrook University.
Jamie: Yeah, we have Dr. Julia Bear on the podcast. Welcome to the podcast!
Julia: Thank you!
Jamie: Do you prefer that I call you Dr. Bear?
Julia: You can just call me Julia, that’s fine.
Jamie: Okay. Alright, Julia. Well, for those who don’t you, you’re an associate professor in the College of Business at Stony Brook University and Julia’s research focuses on the influence of gender on negotiation outcomes as well as conflict management in organizations. In her research, she investigates what factors, both individual and situational, influence the gender gap typically seen in negotiation outcomes and how an understanding of these factors can help to reduce this gender gap in both initiation of negotiation and negotiation performance, which we’re all about because this podcast is about helping ambitious people become bolder, braver, and better paid.
So, Julia, I’d love to hear what sparked your interest in the topic of gender and negotiation in the first place?
Julia: Yes, well, you know I’ve always been fascinated by gender issues and gender differences. I just think it’s a fascinating phenomenon, generally. And when I arrived at Carnegie Mellon University to start my PhD in Organizational Behavior, there was a professor there named Linda Babcock who had just published a book which some of your listeners may even be familiar with called Women Don’t Ask.
Julia: And so that literally had just come out and that was really, in many ways, the blossoming and the beginning of research on gender and negotiation and I just found it fascinating, this notion that negotiation, which is a very specific type of behavior and interaction, really serves as an underlying mechanism for so many of the gender gaps that we see, whether we think of gender gaps in salaries, career advancement, etc.
So once I got there and met her and she had just published the book and given my interest in gender, it was really just a natural progression from there to start really digging into this work on gender and negotiation, which, again, was really in the very initial phases at that point.
Jamie: I remember reading Women Don’t Ask in 2013 and it changed my life.
Julia: Mm-hmm. Yeah. It’s a wonderful book. I would encourage your listeners if they’re...well, obviously they’re interested in this topic if they’re listening to the podcast. It’s a very well done book and it also couples...Linda wrote the book, actually, with a journalist, so it’s nice in the sense that it covers research on gender but it’s also written in a very engaging manner. It also incorporates really interesting stories from women’s lives as well.
Jamie: Yeah and they wrote a follow-up, which is Ask for It.
Julia: Yeah, mm-hmm. And Ask for It’s very nice too. It’s more of a how-to book but full of really, really good tips, many of which I actually teach in my classes in terms of how to go about negotiating, particularly if you find it anxiety-provoking or uncomfortable, etc. So, yeah, that was a nice follow-up as well. Mm-hmm.
Jamie: Nice, nice. And I know you co-wrote this article: Negotiating Femininity: Gender-Relevant Primes Improve Women’s Economic Performance in Gender Role Incongruent Situations.
Julia: Quite a mouthful, yeah.
Jamie: And you wrote that with Linda Babcock.
Julia: Yes, that’s right. Since then, we’ve co-authored papers. Of course I’ve also written many on my own or with other co-authors. But yes, Linda and I co-authored that paper and that was published, I believe, in 2017, yeah.
Jamie: Yeah, so I will link the pdf of this article in the show notes. I’d love for you to give a bit of background about how you and Linda Babcock got the idea for doing this particular article.
Julia: Sure, so yes, there is some background to that article. So, when I started working in this area of gender negotiation, there were plenty of studies showing that if you look in sort of a very narrow landscape of negotiation, let’s say negotiating starting salary or negotiating price in a financial transaction, we tend to see that men, on average, tend to negotiate better outcomes than women.
And I want to be very clear here that all of this social science research is based on averages. I mean, of course there are plenty of women who love to negotiate; there are plenty of men who hate to negotiate, so gender can be a blunt variable, in a sense, to investigate. But on average, we do see men outperforming women
But I started to question the narrowness of the issues that we were investigating, right? And I started to say, if we think theoretically about gender, given men and women’s gender role, men are socialized and expected to be breadwinners, assertive. Women are typically socialized, expected to be communal, helpful, caring. I started to think, you know, maybe it’s no surprise that we see men outperforming women when negotiating over, you know, let’s say, financial issues or types of negotiation issues that map very well onto their gender role.
So, I started to investigate a variety of different issues, not just, let’s say, starting salary or price. But I tried to really test this notion that context should influence whether we see these gender differences. And, indeed, that’s what we found. So I published several papers showing that finding that, gender differences do depend on the context, the negotiation context.
And so I offer that as background to this particular paper because, once we had those findings, we then subsequently said okay, well if we know that there are certain contexts in which we don’t have gender differences, then how can we use that knowledge to actually help people to negotiate better and help women to negotiate better?
And thus the idea for that paper was born, in a sense, because we said, you know, is there some way where we can basically prime women psychologically to make the context feel like it’s a better fit? And that’s what we did in that paper. So, in other words, we said, okay, yes, there are a variety of contexts in which gender differences disappear and that’s all well and good but the fact is many people are negotiating things like salary or financial transactions. We know those are less of a good fit for women, so how can we perhaps psychologically prime them and make it a better fit?
So that’s sort of the background, this notion that there’s always this person-situation fit and for women, especially, competitive negotiations about money may be a poorer fit for women and we found that empirically in our older papers.
And so then that was the motivation for the 2017 paper was basically to say can we make - we called them gender-relevant primes. Because we said okay, wonderful, for women to make it fit better, we either need to remind them, sort of give them almost like a reminder, yes, you can be assertive, you can do this or try to make the situation fit their gender role better.
So that’s why we had two primes. We had one prime in which women recalled being assertive in the past right before negotiating and then we had one prime in which women actually imagined that they were gonna be negotiating for someone else. But both of those primes, the idea was to make the women’s fit with the negotiation situation better, so that it would improve their performance and indeed it did. That’s actually what we found.
Jamie: Cool! So that explains the title Gender-Relevant Primes.
Julia: Yeah. Mm-hmm.
Jamie: You know, helping women to see the negotiation as a better fit to how they see themselves.
Julia: Exactly. Exactly! So if you recall that you were assertive in the past, it’s kind of like, you know, a reminder that yes, the situation, this fits you, you’ve done this, so trying to make it fit that way. Or, again, the other prime we tested was okay, let’s reframe the situation psychologically. Imagine you’re doing it for a close friend. Advocating for other people has been shown empirically as a situation in which women negotiate just as well as men and so, by priming that way, it’s to sort of, you know, have women reframe the situation in a way that’s a better fit. Yeah.
Jamie: I really appreciate that in the title it says Negotiating Femininity, so it implies that femininity itself is negotiable. It’s a concept, really, and we can always reframe how we see our femininity so that we can see ourselves as a better fit to any situation, including a negotiation.
Julia: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm.
Jamie: Yeah. And I also appreciate the premise of the study and I’d love for you to tell us a bit more about that. And the premise is that what we think and how we think ahead of negotiating, particularly for money, impacts how we behave in the negotiation and, therefore, how we behave has an impact on our negotiating results.
Jamie: And this fits perfectly to what I call the model, which is that even though circumstances are neutral, what we think about the circumstance is optional and what we think creates our feelings, therefore it creates our behavior, therefore it creates results.
So, tell us a little bit more about the behavioral impact that you observed. You discuss three different studies in this particular article so, tell us about the behavioral impact that you observed there.
Julia: Yeah, so basically, what we found is that across the three studies, when we compared women’s and men’s negotiation performance without the primes, men indeed outperformed women. Not a surprise. That’s what extent research has shown and, again, I just want to be clear on the effects, what we call the effect sizes in social science means sort of the magnitudes of the difference. It’s not huge, right? It’s not that men are incredible at negotiations and women are terrible but, on average, men were outperforming women.
But again, when we had women use one of the primes… so in the first study we studied the assertiveness prime and in the second study we tested the imagine it’s your close friend prime and then in the third study, we tested them both together and they actually worked equally well.
But, in any case, when women used these primes, in that case, their performance significantly improved in the negotiation and there was no gender difference. So, basically, men’s performance essentially stayed the same but women’s performance significantly improved and the gender difference was eliminated in negotiation performance.
Jamie: Yeah. And what I read from the article was the negotiation study participants had to do a mock negotiation where they were negotiating for the price of..was it an auto part? Engine?
Julia: Yes, yes. And we specifically chose that negotiation because in prior work - and that was the work I mentioned a few moments ago - in prior work, we have actually evaluated that particular negotiation and found that people generally rated this negotiation situation over the price of, actually, it’s the price of motorcycle headlights, people tended to evaluate this as a very masculine negotiation.
Jamie: Motorcycle headlights, yeah.
Julia: Yes. Well, it’s funny, is I have to tell you that negotiation exercise is widely used in negotiation training, which I actually find interesting and I wonder how that influences women in their training but that’s another issue. But in any case, yes, so we specifically chose that exercise to use in our study because we wanted to be sure that we were testing our primes in a situation, again, that was a poor fit for women. I mean that was the whole point of testing these primes, yeah.
Jamie: Yeah. So, my understanding of that prime was you were suggesting that women remember the last time they had to assert themselves and be forceful in defending…
Julia: Yes, exactly. Right. I believe it was recall three incidents, yes, and actually those characteristics that we chose, they actually are directly from an instrument called the Bem Sex Role Inventory and it’s directly from the measure of masculinity. So we actually chose those very intentionally from a theoretical perspective basically saying okay, let’s really test this notion that if we can, again, prime this masculinity for women, that will help mitigate the lack of fit and really help them improve their performance.
Jamie: Wow, fascinating! I didn’t know that there was a textbook about masculinity.
Julia: Oh, absolutely. There is very, very, very rich work on gender theory and this paper really was directly based off of that work. Yes.
Jamie: So it’s really theoretical. It doesn’t mean that, you know, men are this and women are that. It’s our concepts about gender.
Julia: Yeah, the concepts about gender that we tend to see in terms of the way boys and girls are socialized, the expectations for men and women’s behavior. And, again, it’s not that we’re saying all women are like this or all men are like that. Of course that would be sort of silly and simplistic but rather, from a big picture [indecipherable] perspective, we know that there are norms and expectations for behavior and we know that they differ for men and women. Yeah.
Jamie: Hmm. Okay. And I would like to just call out the distinction that it’s what we think about gender that impacts our behavior, so when we think that this is, you know, masculine behavior and because I am a woman I can’t behave that way, it hinders our willingness to participate in this sort of transactional conversation. That’s what I’m hearing. And so, I’m curious to know why do you think that recalling this perceived masculine behavior in the past had women improve their negotiation results in these mock negotiations?
Julia: You know, that’s a great question and I don’t have a good answer to that in the sense that we didn’t actually measure that. So, again, the question is what is the mechanism that’s explaining in the primes and we really didn’t get a good measure of that, so I can’t speak to that empirically so well.
You know, I do think, psychologically, it gives a sense, a greater sense, perhaps, of self-advocacy or a sense of feeling like, you know, yes, I’ve been in these situations before. I’ve done this. There’s also a great deal of research - and I see this in my research as well - that women do find negotiations much more aversive than men. They report much greater anxiety than men about negotiating, so it could also just be helpful in terms of quelling anxiety. It’s, you know, this is not a novel situation, so to speak, you know, reminding oneself I’ve done this before, I can do this again. You know, those are potential mechanisms. Yeah.
Jamie: Yeah, I’m gonna go out on a limb and guess that, when women recall being assertive and being forceful in their communication, they feel confidence from having remembered that they’ve done it before.
Julia: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm. Yeah, I think women have fewer opportunities as they grow up for social learning when it comes to negotiation, right? Social learning meaning learning through observing others’ behavior, similar others behavior. So I do think that having that reminder can be very helpful.
Jamie: Mmm, yeah. And that was one of the biggest takeaways for me from reading Women Don’t Ask about how men, young men, are often coached from an older male about how to play contact sports and that could be...and that sort of situation also plays out in negotiations because they get coached by other people and so I guess, long story short, when women are encouraged to recall the past behavior when they did defend and assert themselves, it’s kind of like you’re coaching yourself.
Julia: Mm-hmm. Yeah. I agree. I agree.
Jamie: Great! So, the second prime was that women were encouraged to prepare as if they’re preparing for this negotiation on behalf of a friend.
Jamie: This is so fascinating and you call this gender-complementary, is that right?
Julia: That’s right. That’s right. It’s funny, it’s been a long time since I’ve looked at this paper, that’s right. So we called the assertive one that we were just talking about, we called it the supplementary prime, meaning it’s for supplementing and then this is the complementary, right, meaning that it’s trying to reinforce this notion that negotiation may in fact be complementary to aspects of women’s gender role.
Jamie: Yeah and so many of my clients and people that I’ve taught in workshops, they all have said...many and many of them say that they feel so comfortable negotiating on behalf of other people.
Julia: Mm-hmm. Yeah and this has definitely been shown empirically, that women in fact, when they negotiate for somebody else, they do significantly better than when they negotiate for themselves and they negotiate just as well as men do. And so this prime was really based off of those findings, right? It was saying okay, how can we harness, so to speak, the positive effects that we know happen for women when they negotiate for other people.
Jamie: Yeah. So what do you think was behind the psychological, you know, the underpinnings of that? When women negotiate as if they’re negotiating for a friend they actually get a better deal.
Julia: Yeah. I think, again, a really good question and we don’t have the data to speak to that. You know I think that it may...you know, there are two potential mechanisms. I think similar to the other prime, the supplementary prime or the assertiveness prime, I think, you know, it may serve as sort of a psychological....the word is escaping me right now...sort of a psychological cue to basically reframe the situation a more positive way, kind of break through that anxiety or discomfort, right? And, you know, make people realize that they can, in fact, mentally reframe the negotiation as a more positive situation in which they can feel free to be more assertive.
Jamie: Yeah, and what I notice as a coach is that a lot of people, including myself, we have difficulty seeing ourselves from the most objective perspective. We’re often our own harshest critics.
Julia: Yes, yes.
Jamie: And it’s hard for...it’s really easy to give praise to other people and extremely hard to accept praise for ourselves, especially if you are ambitious, overachieving. I think that that tendency kind of is congruent to, correlates to how driven you are because you think you drive yourself by not saying the kindest things to yourself instead of being as kind and loving to yourself. And so when you think about negotiating for a friend, as opposed to for you, I think it kind of switches on this more compassionate, even kinder aspect of ourselves and it’s very powerful because it actually improves the results.
Julia: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm. Yeah. Absolutely. It was interesting that, because, again, you know, we went into this paper with a very empirical perspective, of course, and it was interesting that both frames...both primes, excuse me, they did indeed work and if I remember the data correctly, I believe that they worked...I believe that the results were pretty comparable for both primes, which was also interesting in and of itself. They both sort of served as these cues for women to really reframe the situation and negotiate more assertively, yeah.
Jamie: And when you say that, do you mean that the results were comparable, meaning the impact on the actual…?
Julia: Yes, on the actual outcome, yes. I’d have to double check that but I believe, if memory serves, it wasn’t like oh, one prime worked so much better than the other. In fact they both worked pretty comparably, if memory serves.
Jamie: Well I’m of course not coming from an empirical perspective, I’m coming from a coaching perspective, but I love this. This is really fascinating and also it’s the kind of work that I do with my clients. I help them on an individual basis, you know, recall how they were confident and assertive for themselves and how...This is really great. I appreciate this.
So, if we may, I’d like to switch gears a bit and I want to ask you a personal question.
Julia: Sure! Mm-hmm.
Jamie: This is a question I ask everyone who comes on the podcast. What was a negotiation - and I want to tell you that I define negotiation simply as a conversation with the intention of reaching agreement where everyone has the right to say no, so a very broad definition of negotiation - what was a negotiation in your life or career that had the biggest impact on you? And I’d love to hear, you know, what had happened and what you learned.
Julia: Ummm….yeah, that’s a good question. So, there really is not one specific negotiation that stands out. I can say, on a personal level, that - and perhaps that’s why I was interested in this research - that I think it was really when I started working in this area that I, first of all, A) realized that things were negotiable and B) realized that I should start negotiating them, right?
So, I don’t think...so for me, negotiation is not particularly intuitive but I think that working in this area has made me more likely to negotiate and I have had several negotiations at work that I realized in retrospect had I not been working in this area, I might not have negotiated them or even considered the issues negotiable, so to speak, over, you know, a variety of issues.
Jamie: Could you give us an example?
Julia: You know, there’s not sort of a really specific example that comes to mind but certainly there were issues that came up when I was relocating from...I had been living in Israel and I was relocating to the US and there were just a variety of issues that came up in that relocation and starting a job here that, in the past, I think I would have just taken them as a given, you know, like oh well of course the moving expenses aren’t going to cover an actual relocation, right? Or well, of course there are health insurance issues moving from another country that I actually thought twice about and thought well, wait a second, why can’t...you know, this is an exceptional situation, why don’t I try negotiating some of these issues, right?
It is a different move than the organization is used to accommodating but why not ask for some...you know, clearly moving from a different country there are different needs. So, things like that that I think in the past I would have just not...it wouldn’t have even occurred to me to negotiate. Many issues I didn’t even consider were even negotiable. And today, I just very much view...actually I like your definition of negotiation, I agree. I also view it as a conversation that, ideally, people can find a win-win solution and reach an agreement but as you said I like that very much as well, everybody has a right to disagree, to say no and you know, you try, you make your best attempt and sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn’t, you know?
But there’s no harm in asking, there’s no harm in trying and going in with a very collaborative and mindset of trying to solve a problem together. I think that’s a great conceptualization of negotiation.
Jamie: Thank you! And so, I’m curious, have you ever used one of these two primes yourself?
Julia: Yes, I have. I have definitely used some version of the assertiveness prime, absolutely. When I’m going into a new situation or a situation that I find intimidating for whatever reason, I’ve absolutely used that sort of reminder prime because I find it puts things in perspective. And sort of reminding myself, well, wait a second, you’ve done x, y, z, a, b, c, d, so, you know, you can do this, too.
You know the other thing I find really helpful as well to get better with using that prime is also just reframing the situation as learning experiences. So, rather than being sort of so nervous about something new or something daunting, reframing it as well, this is gonna be a learning experience. It’s something new I’m here to learn and yes, in fact, I’ve done a, b, c, d, e, f in my life and so we’ll just go in there and do it, you know, so that’s...I do find that helpful actually, yeah.
Jamie: Love it! So, three very actionable tips you’ve shared: First, before you engage in a negotiation, remind yourself of three times in the past where you did defend yourself, assert yourself, prove yourself. And two is you can also think about the situation as if you’re preparing for a very good friend. I’ve done a version of this, a variation of this, where I ask my client to think about how their best friend would describe them, the three words they would use, right? So it’s not you describing you, it’s your best friend or mentor describing you.
Jamie: Great. And then number three is just to think of the situation as a learning opportunity. So, you know, what can you learn? What is the lesson here? I think that’s a great, great tip.
Jamie: So, finally, I think people would love to learn more about the kind of research that you do. Where can people go to learn more about you and your research?
Julia: So, that’s a great question and so...I’m laughing at your question because I think it’s a great question, unfortunately in academia, many of the journals that we all publish in are not always easy to access, which is unfortunate. They sort of sit in libraries and they’re often read by other academics as opposed to the general public, which is why I think it’s wonderful also your efforts to really translate this research to a wider audience.
But to answer your question, in terms of learning more about the research, they can certainly Google my website at Stony Brook, Julia Bear at Stony Brook. They can certainly email me through my website. I’m happy to share articles or anything else that is not accessible because it is, again, copyrighted and in journals.
And I also have a fun piece actually written with Linda Babcock on the Harvard Business Review website. It’s hbr.org and it is about the myth and reality of negotiating one’s salary. And so that’s a fun piece as well if people want to look at that and that’s not published in a journal that doesn’t like to...they should just be able to get access to that.
Jamie: Great. I will look it up and I will link it into the show notes.
Julia: That would be fantastic.
Jamie: Julia, this has been such a pleasure and there’s so much value here for all of us. Thank you so much for your time and for your expertise.
Julia: Thank you! And good luck to all your listeners with their future negotiations.
Jamie: Alright, great.