Q&A with Lois Frankel and Carol Frohlinger
What makes a girl “nice”?
A “nice” girl is an adult woman who lives her life according to the “rules” she learned were appropriate for little girls in childhood. She suffers from the “disease to please”—making everyone else happy at her own expense. We believe that nice is necessary for getting what you want, but it’s not sufficient. You must add additional behaviors to your repertoire.
In Nice Girls Just Don’t Get It you compare nice girls and winning women. What are the differences?
Nice girls put everyone else’s needs before their own. They hesitate to take action because they don’t want to make waves or be labeled a bitch, and they don’t ask for what they want so as not to appear high maintenance. Winning women factor their needs in with those of others. They know how to approach confrontations without being confrontational and they are willing to take risks in diplomatically asking for what they’ve earned, deserve, or want.
What are some of the most common mistakes women make when it comes to getting the things they most want in life and why do they make them?
1. Not knowing what they want! Women have been socialized to put others needs before their own, so frequently they can’t put a figure on exactly what it is they do want, or are afraid to express it for fear that others will see them as greedy or needy.
2. Not knowing when it’s time to walk away from a bad situation. Women often think they can turn it around or that it’s their fault, when in fact neither is true.
3. Communicating indirectly. They expect others to read their minds, use so many words when expressing themselves that others tune out or can’t figure out what they really want, and put their assertions in the form of questions. All of these behaviors contribute to unclear and diluted messages.
Why are men often better negotiators than women?
The reasons are complicated. Women are as good as men when they are negotiating on behalf of others (such as their families) but fall short when they are negotiating for themselves, for example, when they negotiate salary.
Nice girls have a particularly difficult time as negotiators because they tend to accept the rules as they are, failing to recognize they can challenge the status quo. Take the all-too-common situation of the woman who holds down a job and then heads home for the “second shift.” She fails to recognize the opportunity to negotiate a more equitable solution with her family—she’s not the only person who’s capable of sorting laundry and grocery shopping!
What should we be teaching our daughters so that they grow up to be self-confident and courageous?
We should be teaching them that they will inevitably encounter people who don’t see women as equal to men or deserving of equal rights and opportunities—and that acquiescing may be easier, but it is not the appropriate response. We should also be teaching them to support other women rather than view them as competition.
When you look at high-profile contemporary women, who do you see getting it right?
People like Anne Mulcahy at Xerox, actor Sandra Bullock, and media mogul Oprah Winfrey are all getting it right. They haven’t sacrified their femininity to get what they want, and they don’t suffer fools gladly. Each is a unique combination of the characteristics that make up the personalities of winning women.
What made the two of you decide to team up to write this book? Were there any disagreements along the way?
We met at a women’s conference where we were both speakers and just hit it off. We started blogging together on TheThinPinkLine.com and realized much of the information we provided on that site should be part of a book with a broad scope.
Only one disagreement, and it’s kind of funny. Carol lives in New York and Lois in Los Angeles and, to some degree, their personalities reflect the cultural differences. Lois wrote something about giving the person who cuts ahead of you in a grocery line the benefit of the doubt (the person may not have seen you) and Carol thought Lois was being naïve (of course the person saw you!). They talked it through and found a way to make it part of the book in a way that was acceptable to them both.
Give us three tips women can put to immediate use to start getting what they want—now!
1. Define with crystal clarity what it is you want that you don’t currently have. It could be a better job, to leave a bad relationship, or to tell your mother-in-law to butt out of your business. Until you can “see” and “say” what you want, you won’t get it.
2. Speak in headlines with taglines. The first thing out of your mouth should be your main point, not a lot of filler words. Give your opinion briefly and succinctly. Then follow it up with an inclusive tagline such as, “You can see I have strong feelings about this. I’d also like to know what you think.” The tagline mitigates the impression of being too aggressive.
3. Avoid V-8 moments. Rather than walk away from difficult conversations thinking, “I should have said __________,” prepare in advance for resistance. If you know your husband will be resistant to you going back to work, consider what his objections might be and have a response ready.