Bet you didn’t know … New negotiation research

By on / Teaching Negotiation

Negotiating in high alert
Negotiation is often characterized as a physiologically arousing event marked by pounding hearts, queasy stomachs, and flushed faces. We might assume that heightened physiological arousal would mar our negotiation performance, but this is only true for some, researchers Ashley D. Brown and Jared R. Curhan of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found in a new study.

In one experiment, Brown and Curhan assessed participants’ attitudes toward negotiation—whether they dread it or look forward to it.

Later, some participants took a walk while negotiating over the phone, while others sat in chairs. Among those with negative initial views of negotiation, the exertion of walking impaired their performance relative to sitting; by contrast, those with initially positive views of negotiation performed better while walking than they did while sitting. It seems that general attitudes toward negotiation influence whether people construe their subsequent physiological arousal during negotiation positively or negatively, which then affects their performance.

Overall, the findings suggest the value of trying to overcome negative feelings about negotiation through practice and confidence-boosting exercises. As for those who look forward to negotiating, your sweaty palms may be a sign that you are functioning at your best.

Resource: “The Polarizing Effect of Arousal on Negotiation,” by Ashley D. Brown and Jared R. Curhan. Psychological Science, in press.

When you know more (about negotiating) than they do
So you’ve had some negotiation training and understand the importance of collaborating with counterparts to create value. But what will happen when you negotiate with untrained counterparts? Will your training raise you both up, or will the untrained party drag you down?

Alfred Zerres of the University of Amsterdam and his colleagues examined this question in a new study. They paired up undergraduate business students, none of whom had received past negotiation training, for negotiation simulations. In some of the pairs, both parties remained untrained in negotiation. In some pairs, one party received thorough training in logrolling, or trading on different preferences across issues. In other pairs, both parties received logrolling training.

At their first meeting, all the pairs engaged in two buyer-seller simulations. A month later, to see whether the training “stuck,” the researchers had all the pairs engage in a third simulation. In all three simulations, parties could expand the pie of value through logrolling.

The pairs in which only the party playing the role of seller had received negotiation training performed just as well as pairs in which both parties had received training. But when the only trained party was the buyer, the pairs didn’t perform as well as pairs of trained negotiators. In addition, participants performed just as well a month after their training—a sign that thorough negotiation training can produce lasting habits.

Resource: “Does It Take Two to Tango? Longitudinal Effects of Unilateral and Bilateral Integrative Negotiation Training,” by Alfred Zerres, Joachim Hüffmeier, Philipp Alexander Freund, Klaus Backhaus, and Guido Hertel. Journal of Applied Psychology, 2013.

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