Although I never literally burned my bra, I started thinking about feminism during my years at UCLA. I took courses like “Women Authors in the 20th Century,” and made sure to use “he/she” in my papers and in my day-to-day speech. But I stopped short of calling myself a feminist because I take a practical view on the world. After all, the Equal Rights Amendment has yet to be passed, and there are obviously many wonderful differences between males and females.
People sometimes ask me whether I think women and men resolve conflict differently. General schools of thought agree that women take a longer time to communicate their issues, divulging feelings and needs, all the while attempting to nurture and maintain the relationship in spite of the conflict. General schools of thought also agree that men approach conflict in a more linear fashion, stating their positions with the expectation of proving they’re right. But in the end, I think it’s the perceived (and actual) level of power that drives negotiation, regardless of gender.
So, the greater the power, the greater the expectation of cooperation, and therefore, the greater the satisfaction in the result.
What this all boils down to, in my mind, is self-confidence. It’s a direct route for some of us and a circuitous route for others, but it should be the destination for all. Once we’ve become confident in who we are and what we do, we can successfully negotiate to resolve conflict. I can pull out any number of tools from my mediation toolbox to assist in the communication and negotiation aspects with an eye toward resolution, but I cannot teach self-confidence. It comes from within and it’s never too late to learn.
Women bring unique qualities into every room we enter. Let’s ignore the gender differences and negotiate not from our habits but from our strengths.
If you want more information about the contents of my mediation toolbox, please head over to my website, www.mediationaroundthetable.com.