Women getting fleeced when buying a car isn't just a silly plot line for sitcoms; according to a new study women get swindled more often than men. Researchers found that women are easier to mislead, seen as less competent, and are deceived more often than men are—by both men and other women. (So much for sisterhood.)
To examine gender differences in negotiating, scientists set up three scenarios. In the first part, people playing the part of a "seller" looked at pictures of potential buyers. The sellers consistently rated women as "more warm" but also easier to lie to and less competent. (And that was just from a picture!) Researchers Laura J. Kraya and Alex B. Van Zanta note that warmth may decrease women's resistance to lies because directly confronting deception is considered impolite.
The researchers also found that people who were seen as easily bamboozled internalized that image of themselves as being incompetent by not scrutinizing lies as closely, which in turn encouraged their partner to be even more dishonest.
Lastly, the researchers paired subjects into two groups: The first group acted as real estate agents selling a piece of property marked for residential use while another group was made up of buyers who wanted the property for a large commercial development. Buyers were given free reign to use whatever deception they felt necessary to seal the deal. The women sellers ended up making a lot more deals...sounds great, right? It turns out they were lied to and believed the lies more often than men. In addition both male and female buyers said they were more likely to lie to a woman simply because of her gender.
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This may be one case where our natural feminine charms may be working against us, according to the researchers. (That, and blatant misogyny.) "Women are raised to be nice, to be the peacemaker, and avoid conflict," says Alisa Ruby Bash, a licensed marriage and family therapist in Beverly Hills. "We're accused of being a bitch if we're strong or confident in our opinions."
But don't worry, you're not stuck trying to find a male relative to go with you every time you buy a car, a house, or apply for a new job. Reverse the effect of this trend with the following tips.
1. Start small. For instance, the next time you're at a restaurant and they get your food wrong, don't just accept it. Use your voice and ask for what you want. Practice enough in small situations, and your confidence will translate to bigger ones.
2. Always be respectful and don't lose your cool. It doesn't mean you have to be a pushover. You can be polite and still hold your ground: Stand confidently and make eye contact. Think "business" and not "emotional."
3. Listen to your intuition. "I think often women do know when they're being lied to, but they ignore it because they're trying to be polite," Bash says. Instead, trust yourself. Don't take anything at face value—and always do your homework first. Don't be afraid to walk away. This can be one of your strongest tools. If you're sure you're not getting a good deal, head for the door and don't look back.