How to Outmaneuver Your Opponent Like a Girl Scout

To negotiate with a Girl Scout...

Is to contend with a fierce female who doesn't take no for an answer.

I learned this first-hand three weeks ago, when I facilitated a hands-on negotiation workshop for Girl Scout Leadership Institute, which serves New York City's high school girls.

Don't let their youth fool you into thinking that these girls can't be serious or powerful. They are our future change makers, role models and leaders, already committed to act with courage, confidence and character.

Mock negotiation throwdown

Speaking of character, they really got into it during negotiation role-playing game, complete with (my hand-written) secret instructions and a stash of Rick and Morty Edition Monopoly money to contend over.

I was lucky to be paired with a sixteen-year old girl, who blew me away with her talent for making a case like a power lawyer.

Here was yet another example disproving the gendered stereotype that women don't know how to bargain for themselves.

In our role-play, she first used silence as a power tactic making my attempts at ingratiation fall flat. After hearing me out (FYI, my fictional character was supposed to be rich and famous), she turned my celebrity into a weakness, arguing that because she didn't have my status, she needed the cash more than I did. She persisted, and she won the round.

With no formal training, no MBA, no shiny certificate from Harvard's Program on Negotiation, my teenaged counterpart used contentious tactics - silence and persuasive argumentation - to her advantage, turning the table on me. The power differential (her lower, me higher) became her source of strength.

Some food for thought

What I absolutely loved about this is that I hadn't taught her these moves. My counterpart naturally accessed her intuition and intellect to flex her negotiating muscle and win. Like Lisa, I was teaching backwards.

You might think that it's my job, as a negotiation trainer, to give my workshop attendees all the strategies, tools and tactics upfront and then drill them until each negotiating maneuver becomes second nature, like a military cadet assembling a rifle in the dark.

But that's no fun.

I believe that learning to negotiate should be fun. I believe that all people, including girls, are already fully equipped with the communication and problem-solving acumen to negotiate successfully for themselves.

I believe that the goal of teaching negotiation is to empower, not to exhaust.

That's why Lisa and I give our attendees the vocabulary, or the language for negotiation after the role-play, during which they put their natural skills on the table. The vocabulary inspires self-awareness, confidence and clarity. And that is pure gold.

Between the three of us - Lisa Gates, Victoria Pynchon and me, Jamie Lee - at She Negotiates, we have trained thousands of women in a wide range of industries and organizations. Here's a small selection: 

  • Jefferies Women's Initiative 
  • Lesbians Who Tech and Women in Tech International
  • National Human Resources Association
  • Deloitte Consulting 
  • ABA Women in Law Leadership Academy 
  • American Society of Women Accountants
  • The Private Law Librarian Summit

See our Training and Speaking page for more details. 

If you want to learn from us, you can start by checking out our free resources.