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Why “A Man in Full” Reinforces the Need for the Art of Feminine Negotiation

The new highly anticipated Netflix series, “A Man in Full”, demonstrates the desperate need for a new reframe on negotiation success. In fact, watching the show reminded me why I launched my mission for the Art of Feminine Negotiation. ™

While the series should play as a parody of masculine toxicity, sadly, it rings true for much of what passes as strong leadership these days. Whether it’s the business tycoon, the banking hotshot, the simpering loans officer, the mayor, or legal counsel, the male leads can hardly be called protagonists. Each in their own way are antagonists or anti-heros, displaying behaviour that is neither acceptable nor productive.

The men in the show put on a full-on display of toxic masculine conditioning run amok. Not surprisingly, there is an inordinate amount of references to balls and pricks with a corresponding number of F-bombs or derivatives thereof thrown into the mix. The language reflects the behaviour.

The men brag about their relative abilities to ‘kick another man’s ass’ (both literally and figuratively) and are hell-bent on destruction of their ‘opponents’. Ego and testosterone abound in virtually every interaction between the males in the show. As in real life, this does not end well.

Respect and dignity are not a factor in their negotiations. In fact, the over-riding goal in almost every negotiation featured appears to be the humiliation and belittling of the other side. Brutish bullying seems to be the go-to modus operandi even when it’s to the character’s detriment.

Winning is everything, but unfortunately their concepts of winning do not allow for best outcomes. Taking the most aggressive path is always chosen even when it doesn’t best serve the party taking that approach. Charlie Croker (played by Jeff Daniels) brags that ‘I may be a sore loser sometimes, but I’m a vicious winner’ as if this is a sign of his superior business acumen.

Don’t get me wrong. The production is fabulous, and the acting is exceptional. It’s the message I take issue with. I expect the hope is that the audience will see the folly in the traditional competitive and polarizing approach to negotiating (in business and life) and choose a better path – a more collaborative, creative path to a better future. Heck, that’s the point of the Art of Feminine Negotiation™ – to truly seek to understand and meet the needs of the other party in our interactions and negotiations. But I fear that the audience will take away the opposite lesson, believing that emulating this toxic, divisive behaviour is somehow a sign of power and success.

Allow me to spin some better lessons to take away from the show:

1. Surrender ego for better negotiated outcomes. Bumper-car egos are an impediment to good negotiating. Parking ego when approaching a negotiation will virtually always make space for better resolutions.
2. Build rapport and trust and with it, better results. Effective negotiation is all about connection. Personalized attacks destroy the possibility of connection that allows for bigger and better opportunities.
3. Empathy is key to getting to the heart of the matter and opening space for unexpected wins for all.
4. Holding all your cards to your chest (rather than allowing for transparency and vulnerability) may preclude your ability to find the real deal.
5. Be willing to be flexible. Staying too attached to one particular outcome precludes your ability to see better possibilities lying on the table for the having.
6. Aggressiveness is not the same as assertiveness. The former shows a lack of confidence in your knowledge of the subject whereas the latter comes from effective preparation and intention in showing up as the best version of yourself.
7. Curiosity is more effective than bullying in negotiations.
8. Everyone wants to feel seen and heard. Shutting down either is not an effective way to get your best result.
9. Integrity matters in negotiation and in life. I mean this in both sense of the word. Sacrificing our moral code inevitably backfires as does coming from a place not in keeping with our core values.
10. Machismo is not strength. In fact, the so-called ‘soft skills’ are the strongest way to best outcomes.

Hope these simple tips give some value in approaching your next negotiation.

Cindy

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