Negotiation research you can use: When all we can see is red

By on / Dealing with Difficult People

The ability to take another person’s perspective is a valuable negotiation skill. Perspective taking enhances the discovery of joint gains in negotiation, makes groups more effective, reduces stereotypical thinking, and aids in conflict resolution, to name just a few benefits.

Some people are naturally better perspective takers than others, but all of us have the capacity to pay closer attention to how things look from someone else’s point of view. However, certain states and negotiation characteristics can make this difficult. Time pressure and demands on our attention hinder our perspective-taking ability, as does power: Generally, powerful people give less thought to how others view a situation, often because they don’t think they need to.

Certain emotions can also impede perspective taking. When we’re feeling happy, we’re not as good at making inferences about others’ perspectives because happiness promotes superficial information processing. People who are feeling anxious also are less attuned to others.

In a new study, researchers Jeremy A. Yip (Georgetown University) and Maurice E. Schweitzer (University of Pennsylvania) find that anger also impairs perspective taking. Anger puts us in a state of high arousal—the physiological state of being energized and stimulated—which promotes self-centered thinking and self- interested behavior. In some of their experiments, participants who were induced to feel angry were less skilled at perspective taking in a subsequent, unrelated task than participants who were instead induced to feel sad, disgusted, or neutral.

In another experiment, anger triggered by a task also reduced participants’ perspective-taking ability when performing that task. However, those who were asked to label how they felt— such as angry—were just as skilled perspective takers as those in a neutral state. This result suggests that taking note of when we feel angry can help us avoid the egocentric bias. On the flip side, recognizing that an angry counterpart may be more self-centered than usual can keep us from overreacting and escalating conflict.

Resource: “Losing Your Temper and Your Perspective: Anger Reduces Perspective- Taking,” by Jeremy A. Yip and Maurice E. Schweitzer. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 2018.

Keeping advisers on our side

Before and during a negotiation, we often seek advice from others about whom to approach, what to offer, what to accept, and how to navigate an unfamiliar process. Whether our advisers are experienced agents negotiating on our behalf or friends sharing their personal experience, we weigh their advice and decide whether or not to follow it.

Unfortunately, when we reject their advice, we may suffer a backlash, Harvard Business School researcher Hayley Blunden and her team found in a new study. In their experiments, advisers—especially expert advisers—tend to view people who don’t take their advice as less competent than those who do and are less willing to work with those advice seekers in the future. And, ironically, while soliciting advice from multiple experts is a proven strategy in negotiation and other realms, advisers tend to react more negatively to those who seek advice from multiple advisers than to those who consult only one adviser (that is, themselves).

Advisers’ negative reactions stem from the fact that they significantly overestimate the degree to which others will follow their advice, the researchers found. Why? Advisers tend to mistakenly assume that advisees view them as uniquely qualified to provide guidance on the issue at hand. In fact, people ideally try to gather as much information as possible before making an informed decision—a strategy that can lead to a lot of rejected advice.

How can we maintain good relationships with negotiation advisers whose advice we don’t take? Blunden and her colleagues recommend explicitly discussing our goals before seeking advisers’ counsel—for example, “I want to explore all of my options, so I’m soliciting opinions from people in lots of different spheres”—to manage their expectations and lessen the odds of a backlash if we go in another direction.

Resource: “Seeker Beware: The Interpersonal Costs of Ignoring Advice,” by Hayley Blunden, Jennifer M. Logg, Alison Wood Brooks, Leslie K. John, and Francesca Gino. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 2019.

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