Integrative Negotiations Strategies and Negotiation Ethics: Social Proof and Acceptable Behavior

When uncertainty reigns in business negotiations, negotiators look for indications of the

By on / Business Negotiations

What do we do when we’re uncertain about how to behave in business negotiations? We study the behavior of others in similar situations.

When we look for social proof regarding the “right” way to behave, we tend to make quicker, more efficient decisions, writes psychologist Robert Cialdini of Arizona State University.

Popularity makes just about anything seem more appealing. Here’s one negotiation example from Cialdini.


Discover step-by-step techniques for avoiding common business negotiation pitfalls when you download a copy of the FREE special report, Business Negotiation Strategies: How to Negotiate Better Business Deals, from the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School.

Infomercial writer Colleen Szot has a proven knack for getting TV viewers to order items they don’t necessarily need.

Her standard plea for getting people to pick up the phone had been, “Operators are waiting; please call now.”

Then Szot changed just a few words of the line so that it read, “If operators are busy, please call again.”

Amazingly, calls skyrocketed. Why?

Previously, viewers were given the image of operators idly waiting for the phone to ring. The new line conjured an image of phones ringing off the hook. The message: To join the crowd, you’d have to act fast.

In their book Negotiation Genius (Bantam, 2007), Harvard Business School professors Deepak Malhotra and Max H. Bazerman suggest ways that negotiators in different arenas might use the power of social proof to improve their business negotiations.

If you’re selling a house, for instance, consider limiting the open house to just one hour so that potential buyers will (hopefully) fill the house and create a buzz. And during initial business negotiations with clients, be sure to provide testimonials from satisfied clients, especially high-profile ones.

Related Business Negotiations Article: Negotiation Examples in Real Life: Business Negotiators – How to Mitigate Stress at the Bargaining Table – High pressure business negotiations are common and this business negotiations article outlines negotiation strategies and negotiating skills for avoiding stress in negotiation scenarios.

Negotiation Skills in Business Communication: Heading Off Deception at the Bargaining Table – Negotiating skills and negotiation techniques for heading off deceptive negotiation tactics

Contingency Agreement: The Risks and Pitfalls of Issuing Drafts – The risks and advantages of draft negotiated agreements and how these moves impact the negotiating process


Discover step-by-step techniques for avoiding common business negotiation pitfalls when you download a copy of the FREE special report, Business Negotiation Strategies: How to Negotiate Better Business Deals, from the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School.

Originally published June 2008.

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