October 13, 2012

Can Flirting Pay Off For Women

I’m a man; a red-blooded man, with hormones and drive just like anyone else. While I’m faithfully married, with no plans of straying, I can honestly say I receive it well when a woman is a little flirty with me. Be it a waitress at the burger joint, or the cashier at the grocery store, that subtle feminine charm goes a long way in my eyes.

According to University of California Berkley’s Haas School of Business’ studies, I’m not alone on this one.

To be frank, I’m not really in a negotiating atmosphere with the waitress or cashier, but the reception is similar when women are in such a position according to the study.

The study, “Feminine Charm: An Experimental Analysis of its Costs and Benefits in Negotiations,” was published in October in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin and co-authored by Haas PhD alumna Connson C. Locke of the London School of Economics and Haas PhD candidate Alex B. Van Zant.

“To determine whether women who flirt are more effective in negotiating than men who flirt, the researchers asked 100 participants to evaluate to what extent they use social charm in negotiation on a one-to-seven scale.

Earlier that week, the participants evaluated their partners’ negotiating effectiveness. Women who said they used more social charm were rated more effective by their partners. However, men who said they used more social charm were not regarded as more effective.

In the second experiment, the researchers asked subjects to imagine they were selling a car worth $1,200 and asked for how much would they sell the car. Next, the subjects read one of two scenarios about a potential buyer named Sue. The first group meets Sue, who shakes hands when she meets the seller, smiles, and says, “It’s a pleasure to meet you.” and then “What’s your best price?” in a serious tone. The second group reads an alternate scenario in which Sue greets the seller by smiling warmly, looking the seller up and down, touching the seller’s arm, and saying, “You’re even more charming than over email,” followed by a playful wink and asking, “What’s your best price?”

The result? Male sellers were willing to give the “playful Sue” more than $100 off the selling price whereas they weren’t as willing to negotiate with the “serious Sue.” Playful Sue’s behavior did not affect female car sellers.”

According to the research, flirting pays off for women, but no so much for men.

Think about it though. Studies show, not these studies-other ones, that there’s a 10:1 ratio of men to women in executive positions, and more women are starting businesses than men, more women are in the workforce than men, and the majority of degree-holders are now women. Yet, according to the Department of Labor 2007 statistics, women are still only dominating fields and industries that are often seen as “female.”

I’m trying as best as I can to not sound like a male chauvinist pig because I’m really not one, but after this blog, that statement may be laughable.

Generally business is inundated with men, therefore having women around is seen as sort of a luxury in terms of company, according to my wife who works in a male dominated industry. Women who can capitalize on being viewed as a luxury in a business transaction, and do it while being genuine, can open lots of doors for themselves just by being a little extra friendly.

As long as it’s genuine and playful, of course.

“Women are uniquely confronted with a tradeoff in terms of being perceived as strong versus warm. Using feminine charm in negotiation is a technique that combines both,” says Kray, who holds the Warren E. and Carol Spieker Chair in Leadership at the Haas School.

Mama always said “It don’t cost nothin’ to smile.” The proof is in the pudding.

Image Credit: Yuri Arcurs / Shutterstock

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