You know that nagging fear you have when making a big purchase like a car or home that you might be getting ripped off? According to a new study you might be right… especially if you’re a woman.
The study found that women are more likely to be swindled during a negotiation. Even worse, we’re also more likely to be seen as incompetent, more easily misled and are lied to more often — by both men and women. File this one under “Things I Wish Weren’t True For Many Reasons.”
Before you chuck this study in the trash and think “not this girl!” or resign yourself to toting your boyfriend or father with you anytime you need to make a purchase, this may actually be a good thing. “I think it’s great that people are examining the stereotype and the reasons behind it,” says Alisa Ruby Bash, M.S., a licensed marriage and family therapist in Beverly Hills.
The study was set up in three parts, to examine different facets of gender stereotyping in negotiating situations. In part one, people pretending to be sellers looked at pictures of potential buyers. The sellers consistently rated the women as “more warm” but also easier to lie to and less competent. And that was just from looking at a picture. Researchers Laura J. Kraya and Alex B. Van Zanta note that our natural warmth may decrease women’s resistance to lies because directly confronting deception is considered impolite.
The second part found that people who were seen as easily bamboozled in turn believed that to be true and it led them to see themselves as incompetent. Because the women believed they couldn’t handle it they didn’t ask questions or scrutinize lies as closely which in turn encouraged their partner to be even less ethical. It turned into a vicious circle of dishonesty.
But the last scenario was the most telling. The researchers had one group of people pretend to be real estate agents selling a piece of property marked for residential use while the other group were buyers who wanted the property for a large commercial development. (Both men and women were assigned to both parts.) Buyers were told to use whatever deception they felt necessary to seal the deal. The women sellers ended up making a lot more deals, which sounds like a good thing until you realize they made more sales because they were lied to — and believed the lies — far more often than men. They thought they had made a good deal when in fact they’d been ripped off. In addition both male and female buyers said they were more likely to lie to a woman simply because of her gender. (What’s up with that, ladies?)
So what is it about having a XX chromosome? This may be one case where our natural feminine charms may be working against us, according to the researchers. (That and blatant misogyny.) “Women are raised to be nice, to be the peacemaker and avoid conflict,” Elisa says . “We’re accused of being a b**** if we’re strong or confident in our opinions.” She adds that she isn’t surprised that there’s some truth to it. But knowledge is power and knowing that this effect is real can help you learn better negotiating skills.
Bash recommends that all women practice being more confident and assertive in smaller situations, like when a restaurant messes up your order. “You need to practice raising your voice and asking for what you want,” she says. Next, she recommends staying cool, professional and respectful, remembering that this is business and not personal.
Last she says that women often have a good intuition about things and to not ignore our gut instincts, especially out of politeness. “I think women often do know when we’re being lied to which is why it’s important to listen to that and not take everything at face value.”
In the end, remember you always have the power to walk away from the table if you need more time to research or if you feel like you’re being lied to. And if they do call you a b****? So be it. Better than losing $7,000 — the average amount less in salary that a woman asks for than a man when negotiating for a new job.