Negotiation research you can use: In negotiations with friends, it may pay to lower your expectations

By on / Negotiation Skills

When buying a used car, would you rather negotiate with a friend or a stranger? We might expect that we’d get a better deal from the friend, whether because we’d communicate with ease or because our friend would give us a “friend discount.”

But in fact, negotiations between friends and others in a close relationship are notoriously inefficient, research shows. Pairs of friends tend to negotiate worse deals than pairs of strangers, leaving value on the table. In one study, dating couples were more willing to settle for suboptimal agreements than strangers were, William R. Fry and his colleagues found. Why might we ask less of those close to us than we ask of strangers? Because of our desire to protect the relationship and avoid sowing negative emotions and conflict.

Interestingly, because we ask less from those close to us, it seems we also expect them to ask less of us—to our detriment, Jaime Ramirez-Fernandez and colleagues found in a new set of experiments. In one experiment, the researchers asked study participants to imagine they were interested in buying a used car. The participants expected a more generous offer from a friend than from an acquaintance selling a similar car. These expectations can lead us to react negatively when a friend drives a hard bargain.

In another experiment, among participants who engaged in a perspective-taking exercise, those receiving an offer from a best friend in a negotiation for a used car had lower expectations than those receiving an offer from an acquaintance. The results suggest that taking time to consider the other party’s perspective can help us enter negotiations with those close to us with more realistic expectations.

Resource: “I Expected More from You: The Influence of Close Relationships and Perspective Taking on Negotiation Offers,” by Jaime Ramirez-Fernandez, Jimena Y. Ramirez-Marin, and Lourdes Munduate. Group Decision and Negotiation, 2018.


For a power boost, offer advice

In negotiation, we gain power from strong alternatives, a powerful role, or our particular talents and skills. What if we lack power in a particular negotiation? We may be able to do well nonetheless if we merely feel powerful, research suggests. For example, we can enhance our sense of psychological power by writing about a time when we felt powerful.

In a new study, Professor Michael Schaerer of Singapore Management University and his colleagues identified another way we can enhance our sense of power: by giving advice. In one experiment, they found that participants who recalled a time when they gave advice to someone, whether solicited or unsolicited, subsequently felt more powerful as compared to participants in a control condition who weren’t asked to recall giving advice.

In another experiment, employees of a university library were asked how often they offer advice to others, whether people tend to follow their advice, and the extent to which they believe they have power. The results showed that those who give advice more often feel more powerful, but only if they believe that others heed their advice.

In a third study, MBA students completed a survey that asked them about the degree to which they engage in networking as a measure of their desire to increase their level of power in their career. About a day later,
the students took part in an in-class negotiation exercise between a buyer and seller. Afterwards, they were asked whether their counterpart offered them advice during the negotiation. The results showed a link between power seeking and advice giving, such that those who engage in networking behavior more frequently also were more likely to offer their counterpart advice. The results suggest that some people may be motivated to exert influence on others to achieve a sense of power.

A final experiment confirmed that people with a strong desire for power are more likely to give advice and receive a boost in their sense of psychological power from doing so, as long as the advice is taken. Overall, the study findings imply that when you have good advice to offer, you should give it freely, as doing so may increase your sense of power—and, quite possibly, your negotiation outcomes.

Source: “Advice Giving: A Subtle Pathway to Power,” by Michael Schaerer, Leigh P. Tost,
Li Huang, Francesca Gino, and Rick Larrick.Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 2018.

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