Hostage to Negotiation

I’ve spent many hours this month researching the topic of financial negotiation as it applies to women in the workplace. The data is thought-provoking, especially when you consider leadership competency and education. (If you’re interested in seeing why effective negotiation is critical to career success, especially for women, you can see that Forbes article here.)

One main concept I gleaned from this work is that most people (both men and women) express discomfort with the idea of having to negotiate things like a salary or benefits at a new job. In fact, any transaction where finances are involved becomes instantly more stressful when you add a negotiation component into the mix.

Here’s an example: In a highly scientific straw poll I conducted this week, most people said the excitement of purchasing a new car is dampened by the idea that they’ll have to negotiate the price. The effect is two-fold. They (1) hate having to haggle, and (2) always walk away feeling as though they could have done better. After all, if the other party agreed to the current terms, what else might they have agreed to?

You’d think we’d all be experts at this negotiation thing, given that we’re all doing it, all the time, in every aspect of our lives. Oh, sure, we don’t always call it that— we may call it bargaining, compromise, or conflict resolution, but it all amounts to the same thing.

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Rooted In Confidence

“Once we believe in ourselves, we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight, or any experience that reveals the human spirit.” – E.E. Cummings

I published an article earlier this year that discussed the idea that a lack of confidence is limiting women’s career trajectories. In short, women tend to project less confidence in their abilities than their male counterparts (even when they’re highly skilled) and are less likely to take professional risks, call attention to their successes, or ask for raises and promotions.

It occurred to me that a lack of confidence is not something that just appears in adulthood; it begins much earlier. Further research proved the idea-  a recent study finds that between the ages of 8 and 14, girls’ confidence levels drop by 30%.

Our daughters’ confidence levels begin to drop when they are just eight years old. Let that sink in.

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An Ounce of Stress Prevention

There’s some really interesting research out there on stress and the physical, emotional and mental toll it takes on us. You’re not the only one feeling it’s effects: up to 90% of doctor’s visits are now for stress-related issues.

As I poured through information on life’s most stressful circumstances, it seemed a large number of them fall into three specific categories, and that’s what I’ve written about this month in Forbes: how to reduce common types of stress and feel better.

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Be Reasonable!

I came to parenting the way most of us do – knowing nothing and trying to learn everything.- Mayim Balik

The teen years. You just start to feel like you’re settling into this parenting thing, and then all the rules change. Overnight, it becomes a balancing act of keeping your kids safe while still allowing them enough independence to learn, grow and become fully-functioning adults.

Sometimes it feels like things are moving a mile a minute, and you wish life would just slow down. But that’s not how it works… for them, or for you. This is when your children get a crash course in the dynamics of relationships, and what it takes to maintain (or destroy) them.

I think that’s why a lot of parents agonize over “dating policies” for their children. For good or ill, we know that the romantic entanglements of youth provide lessons they’ll carry over into adulthood, and we want so desperately to provide the right guidance.

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Fail Safe

“Forgiveness is a virtue of the brave.” –Indira Gandhi

I’ve been thinking lately about the nature of failure and forgiveness.

The thing is, I can be selfish.  It’s not intentional, but I have introvert tendencies, and when I get overwhelmed or exhausted, I withdraw my energies… and my powers of observation seem to tank right along with them. (To be honest, they’re pretty weak to begin with.  I’m not very sensitive and tend to miss both verbal and nonverbal cues that other people seem to pick up easily.)

A couple of years ago, I got very sick with a mystery illness that absolutely flattened me for the better part of 6 months. The doctors had all sorts of gloomy predictions for what might be happening, and the stress of dealing with those ideas, along with the endless testing and overall feeling of crappiness led me to pull back on the time I devoted to making sure I stayed connected in my friendships.

I took it one step further, however, and here’s where the selfishness really kicked in: I was so focused on my own issues that I failed to see that someone I loved dearly was really struggling- and what she was going through brought a much deeper pain than any physical issue I was having. Wrapped up in my own problems, I was totally oblivious…until one day, my fog suddenly lifted, and I thought… “Wait. We haven’t really talked about anything of consequence in months. And that’s not normal.”

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Just A Note

“It went on, this lifetime in a box, one letter after another.” ― Nicholas Sparks

Imagine your house was burning, and you had only a few minutes to save the things you felt were irreplaceable. Assume people and pets were already safe, and you could only save what you could carry in one trip. What would you choose?

When I ask people this question, their responses tend to fall into one of three categories:

  1. Important documents
  2. Letters and/or photos
  3. Heirlooms

That “important document thing” is the most practical answer; when I ask someone to define “important documents”, they’ll list things like social security cards, birth certificates, title documents, and the like. It does make perfect sense to try to save certain paperwork for record-keeping or legal purposes, so kudos to you people who think with your heads.

Also, you’re in the minority.

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Don’t (Con)Tempt Me

“Evil begins when you begin to treat people as things.” — Terry Pratchett, I Shall Wear Midnight

I recently had an, ahem, “conversation” with a well-loved young person in my life about appreciation and gratefulness. Or the lack thereof. (If you have teenagers, you’ve probably had some version of this same conversation.)

I had built a marvelous head of steam. “It’s not only that you don’t recognize my ongoing efforts to love and support you, it’s also that you actually seem to hold these things, and me, in contempt”. (Melodrama, party of one? That’s fine. I own it.)

I expected an eyeroll in response, but instead I got a puzzled look. “I literally have no idea what you’re saying. I don’t even know what that means”.

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