In negotiation, rarely does a deal seem perfect. Rather, we often feel ambivalent about our choices. Should you accept your counterpart’s best and final offer, which is merely adequate from your perspective, or devote the considerable energy required to find a stellar deal elsewhere? Should you end a business relationship that has grown contentious or spend time trying to repair it?
When we’re faced with making a decision about which we feel ambivalent, we tend to feel uncomfortable, imagining the regret we may feel if we make the wrong choice. We can respond to this discomfort in several ways, according to researchers Frenk van Harreveld and Joop van der Pliegt of the University of Amsterdam and Yael N. de Liver of Utrecht University in the Netherlands. If the decision can be postponed, we procrastinate. If stalling isn’t an option, we might deny the responsibility for our choices. For example, a salesperson who faces strong incentives to lie about her product’s features to a customer might excuse her unethical behavior by telling herself that “exaggerating” is to be expected in her industry.