Flirting helps women succeed in negotiations, according to research published earlier this month by a professor at the UC Berkeley Haas School of Business.
The paper, co-authored by Haas professor Laura Kray, analyzes the relationship between what it calls “feminine charm” and improved results in a variety of social and economic negotiations.
An initial study asked MBA students to first rate themselves on how likely they were to use personal charm in negotiations and then to rate a partner on his or her effectiveness in a mock negotiation. The study found that females who rated themselves highly charming tended to achieve better results than less flirty women.
One experiment took two groups of women and asked them to make a mock car sale. One group was told to act seriously when asking, “What’s your best price?,” and the other was told to flirt. Customers who interacted with women using feminine charm tended to offer higher prices.
“We define feminine charm as an impression management technique available to women that combines friendliness with flirtation,” the paper reads. “The aim of feminine charm is to make an interaction partner feel good to gain compliance toward broader interaction goals.”
In the study, behaviors like smiling and having a flattering body posture were considered flirting.
“In our face-to-face experiments, we gave women a lot of latitude,” Kray said. “The main characteristic is being playful and having fun.”
Despite the benefits flirty women gained over nonflirty women, the paper notes that women as a group still lag behind men in negotiation success.
Men, who are traditionally more assertive and demanding of their interests, outperform women in negotiations, particularly in male-dominated social and business settings, according to the paper. Women who try to compensate for this disadvantage by being more assertive are met with criticism for appearing too masculine, which can hurt their standing in a negotiation. This presents a catch-22 negotiation scenario, the paper concludes.
“The real problem is that women don’t ask for raises as often as men,” said Diana Wei, vice president of external affairs for the campus club Berkeley Women in Business and a campus senior. “Women aren’t even entering the negotiations. That could explain the difference between women’s wages and men’s.”
Feminine Charm: An Experimental Analysis of its Costs and Benefits in Negotiations was co-authored by Kray, Connson Locke and Alex Van Zant and published in the October issue of the journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. Kray said the question the study raises that she wants to research next is whether male flirtation affects negotiation success.
A different study published by LinkedIn in April surveyed 2,000 professionals and found that only 26 percent of women and 37 percent of men were confident about negotiations related to their careers, like those involving raises and promotions.
Contact Jacob Brown at [email protected].
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