The Poker Face

Eleanor B. Alter, matrimonial lawyer
Men are a lot less frightened by negotiating. They're not afraid to offer whatever they think they can get away with. Or they'll say, "I'll offer very little and wait them out." Women have a hard time with that.

Men usually have more experience in negotiating, just because male-dominated professions require it. Emotional detachment can be productive, though of course only some men are more emotionally detached than women. If you could be emotionally detached in negotiating and emotionally attached to your spouse and kids, you'd be perfect.

Even I hate negotiating for myself, though I have no problem doing it for someone else. I don't get intimidated by judges or courtrooms or lawyers, but I get very intimidated by sales help, for instance. I once went into Hermès thinking that I could get a wallet I wanted for about $400, which to me is a lot. When the salesman told me it was $1,200, I thought, How do I get out of here? I had to stand there and ask to see something else and pretend that I didn't want the first thing because it was too small. Detachment is something that women could benefit from in many situations.

Thick Skin

Deborah Tannen, author and Georgetown University linguistics professor
Women could learn from men not to take criticism so personally, especially in work situations but also in personal situations. Women tend to think that if you like a person, you express agreement with them. Men often use something I call agonism—ritualized opposition. For example, a man might explore an idea by tearing it apart, by playing devil's advocate. He's not literally attacking the idea, he's exploring it. But a woman might just think, "He hates my idea", or even, "He hates me."

It's the same in personal situations. A woman might feel personally attacked if her husband or boyfriend or friend disagrees with her in public. While she thinks he's being disloyal, he might feel that by debating he's showing intellectual engagement, camaraderie, and respect. We should be more receptive to this perspective.

I also think that sometimes in work settings women should reveal their feelings less. Men often resist talking about personal problems at work because it might make them appear weak. Women, who sometimes tend to create closeness and forge work relationships by discussing personal problems, have to be careful, because they may appear more problem-ridden than they actually are, and for that reason might be passed up for a promotion. Management might say, "Maybe she's got too much going on in her life right now to take on this responsibility."

The Penetrating Gaze

Kara Walker, artist
Part of the reason my work is controversial is that it appropriates the male gaze: looking closely, not averting the eyes, facing things squarely. That means having to stare down all sorts of uncomfortable things, having to brave ugly situations with humor and distance. Distance is easy for me, being shy, but acquiring a sense of humor takes balls. My approach to making art is arguably female: I'm doing things—paper cutting, diary keeping, watercoloring, romance writing—that are steeped in second-class status. Silhouette cutting in its heyday was deemed a useful activity for women and invalids. But my method is sneaky, seductive, dark, and dangerous, because I'm using these seemingly harmless tools to face some really harsh truths about subjects like race and violence.


Jayshree Ullal, CEO and president of Arista Networks
In business, women should learn from their male counterparts and emulate their confidence and logical thought processes. If not, women are likely to be perceived as emotional and tentative. I'm reminded of my childhood, when the girls and boys shared a school bus. After a big exam, the girls would be worried and concerned about their performance, while the boys would brag about how well they did. Yet when the results came, the girls would outscore the boys.


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