Negotiation Examples in Real Life: Bargaining with Friends and Family

When you're bargaining with friends and family you're engaging in one of the most common negotiation examples in real life

By on / Negotiation Skills

Who achieves the best negotiated agreements: strangers, friends, or romantic partners? In a 1993 negotiation role-play simulation, Margaret Neale of Stanford University and Kathleen McGinn found that pairs of friends achieved higher joint gains than married couples and pairs of strangers.

Along with their colleague Elizabeth Mannix of Cornell University, the researchers suggest that a “curvilinear relationship” exists between the strength of the tie between negotiating partners and the gains they achieve.

Specifically, negotiating friends and couples have an edge over strangers by virtue of their knowledge of the other side’s preferences. Yet couples may be so averse to conflict that they are less successful than friends at capitalizing on differences.


Build powerful negotiation skills and become a better dealmaker and leader. Download our FREE special report, Negotiation Skills: Negotiation Strategies and Negotiation Techniques to Help You Become a Better Negotiator, from the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School.

Negotiation Examples in Real Life – Symbolic Outcomes in Negotiation

But couples may not mind missing out on these gains, due to the high value they place on “symbolic outcomes”–the messages negotiators send each other about the relationship through their actions.

When a husband forgoes the movie he would like to see in favor of his wife’s choice, she receives not only the pleasure of seeing her preferred film but also the knowledge that her husband will sometimes put her desires before his. In close relationships, such reciprocal concessions, whether minor or major, can be invaluable.

Related Negotiation Skills Article:  What Can Business Negotiators Learn from Principal Agent Theory? – Negotiating the relationship between a principal and her agent is one of the most challenging, and critical, bargaining relationships in business and diplomacy. In this article drawn from negotiation research, the concept of the principal-agent theory with regard to negotiation is explored.

ZOPA Negotiation: Bargaining Between Friends – Finding the zone of possible agreement between two sets of interests is essential to creating a viable, win-win negotiated agreement. In this article, negotiating skills and negotiation techniques are offered for when a negotiator needs to find her ZOPA with a friend or family member.

Successful Negotiation Examples: Emotional Intelligence as a Negotiating Skill and Negotiation Tactic


Build powerful negotiation skills and become a better dealmaker and leader. Download our FREE special report, Negotiation Skills: Negotiation Strategies and Negotiation Techniques to Help You Become a Better Negotiator, from the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School.

Adapted from “Negotiating with Those Who Matter Most,” first published in the Negotiation newsletter, December 2007.

Originally published June 2011.

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