Have you ever been conflicted trying to make a business decision? No matter how many times you look at the issue, it is unclear to you what to do. I recently went through some protracted negotiations with a male client for work on a new project. We went back and forth with proposal and counter proposal. I was going to walk away from the deal because I couldn’t decide what to do. I finally got my answer. I needed a gender translation.
Why was I having so many problems? I met this prospect at an informal business meeting. I didn’t know him and none of my business associates knew him. He seemed nice enough and his consulting business was interesting. We met for a follow up meeting and discussed our businesses. It turned out that he had a need for the types of strategic selling consulting services that I offered. His business was not growing in the areas that he needed it to grow. I showed him some of my work. He liked it. Then he described the specific issue that his company was experiencing. His problem was costing his company thousands of dollars. I quoted him a fee for the project. His company is small and this was an unplanned budget item. He cringed. He asked if I could be more flexible on the price.
I wondered if he were negotiating with a guy would he ask the same question. I hesitated to lower my price. I countered with a different, smaller project that would lower the cost and deliver what he needed to move forward. He wasn’t interested. He wanted the bigger project at the lower cost. My discomfort continued. I wasn’t sure if he was the type of guy who negotiates with women harder than he negotiates with men. I’m sensitive to that sort of behavior. The problem was that I just couldn’t tell.
What did I do? I found someone who can do a “gender translation” for me. Who can do this? A business savvy guy. I knew exactly who to ask–my husband. I described the phone call conversations, and our meetings. I asked my husband to read the emails going back and forth that summarized our meetings and phone calls during the negotiations. My husband was the perfect resource because he is a business professional who works well with both men and women. I needed his unique male perspective to sort through what I was seeing. One thing I wasn’t going to do was reduce my rate for someone who I perceived was trying to beat me down just because I’m female.
My husband read over the emails. He said to me, “Maura, this is a good guy. I don’t think he’s trying to be difficult. I just think he doesn’t have the money.” I am of the school that money is never a resource issue. It’s always a priority issue and it wasn’t a priority for this guy to pay what I wanted him to pay. What did my husband see? He told me that he saw that this prospect was trying to see my point of view. That was encouraging. I am always partial to people who appreciate my feelings and listen to me. After hearing from my husband, I relented. I lowered my price because the project sounded interesting and I wanted to do the work.
Negotiations are hard enough without gender confusing the issues. If gender issues give you problems, that may be the time when you need a gender translator. That is the best way I know to prevent your interests from getting lost in translation.