You’re probably a better negotiator than you think, says Jane Pauley, a contributor to CBS’ Sunday Morning after almost four decades at NBC and New York Times bestselling author of Your Life Calling: Reimagining the Rest of Your Life. It’s just that your style isn’t the typical tough-guy act.
“We often think that what comes naturally isn’t of value,” Pauley explains, “but a strong negotiating position can start with an impression of fairness and collaboration.” In her negotiations, she says she would set out “to establish the justice of my cause, willingness to hear out the other side and desire to find a solution where everyone feels satisfied—that’s probably a feminine way of negotiating.”
“Lady Jane” or GI Jane?
For many years, Pauley, whose nickname at the Today show was “Lady Jane,” didn’t consider herself a force to be reckoned with as a negotiator. “Sure, I was interviewing heads of state, but when the mike went off…I wanted to be liked,” she says. “I wanted the outcome to be favorable for everyone. And my self-image as a woman didn’t need me to chest-thump or run up the score.”
Yet like most women, she could be aggressive as a mom or for a sister. “I can be a cannon when going to combat for someone else,” she says. Indeed, she points to a study that found that women, when negotiating on someone else’s behalf, achieved results that were 16 percent better than what men achieved. “It’s important to realize we have it in us,” she adds.
Many Roads to Rome
That’s not to say that the leadership skills—being empathetic and collaborative, listening, avoiding conflict—that are in a woman’s negotiation toolkit, or what Pauley calls a woman’s “portfolio,” should be discounted. “We need to identify them as strengths so that we can leverage them,” Pauley explains.
Several years ago, she was taken by surprise when Today was reluctant to start a second season of “Your Life Calling,” a series of segments she was making in partnership with AARP. She recalls: “I was angry and I felt I was being unfairly blamed for production problems.” But she kept her emotions to herself, and working her “Lady Jane” reputation, she negotiated a happy resolution. “I proposed a new system and said, ‘Give this a month and see if it works,’” she says. “We ended up doing three more seasons.”
Of course, sharpening negotiation skills that don’t come naturally can also bolster your effectiveness. “While Hillary Clinton was about relationship-building, asking first about your family, Condoleezza Rice led by being tough and all business,” Pauley notes.
But the bigger point is that the last three Secretaries of State before John Kerry have been women (Pauley was reminded of this by Madeleine Albright who tells the story of her granddaughter’s asking her if you had to be a woman to be Secretary of State.) “These women were global negotiators,” Pauley adds. “Each has a different style and each style worked. Many roads will take you to Rome.”
Jane Pauley served as cohost of Today from 1976 to 1989, anchored Dateline NBC for 11 years, and in 2004 became the host of her own daytime program, The Jane Pauley Show. Her memoir, Skywriting: A Life Out of the Blue, was a New York Times bestseller. She lives with her husband, Doonesbury cartoonist Garry Trudeau, in New York City.