Learn how to negotiate like a diplomat, think on your feet like an improv performer, and master job offer negotiation like a professional athlete when you download a copy of 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.


self fulfilling prophecy

What is a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy in Negotiation?

In negotiation, even when not based in reality, the expectation that someone is “tough” or “cooperative” becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy at the bargaining table

A self-fulfilling prophecy is a prediction of expectations that a person has that comes true because he or she expects it will. Unfortunately, this situation is common in many negotiations. 

Research has shown that negotiators who were believed to be competitive (though this reputation was randomly assigned) were treated by their counterparts with suspicion. In turn, negotiators who were believed to be tough responded by acting tough; they failed to share information or to persuade the other party to make concessions. The result? Subpar bargaining outcomes for both sides.

However, research also shows that people fall victim to a host of perceptual biases when assessing others. Therefore, be prepared to find out that your opponent is very different than you expected them to be – and perhaps less competitive than you expected.

To avoid the negative impact of a self-fulfilling prophecy, remember to approach each negotiation in isolation from biases, past histories or reputations, or even prior negotiations. This method allows for the most integrative approach to the bargaining table. Discovering the unique value-creation opportunities inherent in every negotiation allows a negotiator (and her counterpart) to achieve optimal, win-win negotiated agreements, and contributes to a bargaining relationship based upon mutual exchange and goodwill.

Learn how to negotiate like a diplomat, think on your feet like an improv performer, and master job offer negotiation like a professional athlete when you download a copy of 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.

We will send you a download link to your copy of the report and notify you by email when we post new business negotiation advice and information on how to build a winning team to our website.

The following items are tagged self fulfilling prophecy:

Why First Impressions Matter in Negotiation

Posted by & filed under Negotiation Skills.

Even when not based in reality, the expectation that someone is “tough” or “cooperative” becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy at the bargaining table. When you approach an allegedly tough competitor with suspicion and guardedness, he is likely to absord these expectations and become more competitive. … Read More 

When Conflict Becomes a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy

Posted by & filed under Negotiation Skills.

When one party brings up the possibility of a lawsuit in a business dispute, the threat can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Yet business negotiators often benefit from settling their disputes before going to court, write Robert H. Mnookin, Scott R. Peppet, and Andrew S. Tulumello in their book Beyond Winning: Negotiating to Create Value in … Read More 

How to Capitalize on Luck in Negotiation

Posted by & filed under Negotiation Skills.

Imagine that you have just negotiated a great deal on a house – and rightly so, given how deftly you managed the process from start to finish. You diligently studied the local real estate market and uncovered the seller’s motives for listing her property. You even created mutual gain by allowing the seller to stay … Read More 

Managers: improve your team members’ negotiating power

Posted by & filed under Business Negotiations.

Research on stereotypes has reached conclusions about how lack of power and status can affect performance on negotiation and other tasks. Laura Kray of the University of California at Berkeley and her colleagues found in their research  that women negotiators performed worse than men when they were led to believe that their performance reflected negotiating … Read More 

How Stereotypes Impair Performance

Posted by & filed under Daily, Negotiation Skills.

Adapted from “Why It Pays for Negotiators to Feel Powerful,” first published in the Negotiation newsletter. Simply knowing that others may be judging us according to negative stereotypes can impair our performance, according to Stanford University professor Claude Steele. All of us—from white males to African American women to those low on the workplace totem pole—experience … Read More 

When Does Personality Matter?

Posted by & filed under Daily, Negotiation Skills.

Adapted from “When Tough Talk Is Beside the Point,” by Hal Movius (instructor, The Program on Technology Negotiation, Program on Negotiation, Harvard Law School), first published in the Negotiation newsletter. Most of us intuitively believe that personality traits such as toughness matter a great deal in negotiation. Yet studies by Bruce Barry and Raymond Friedman of … Read More 

When the Sexes Face Off

Posted by & filed under Daily, Negotiation Skills.

Adapted from “Battles of the Sexes,” first published in the Negotiation newsletter. What happens when men and women compete with one another for scarce resources? In a fascinating series of studies, Professor Laura Kray of the University of California at Berkeley and her colleagues show that gender stereotypes have unexpected effects on the behavior of pairs … Read More 

Turn Vicious Cycles Into Virtuous Ones

Posted by & filed under Business Negotiations.

For decades, Hormel Foods and its employees enjoyed one of the most cooperative and productive labor-management relationships in the processed foods industry. But beginning in the late 1970s, when Hormel pushed for wage concessions, the company’s relationship with its workforce began to deteriorate, especially at the plant in Austin, Minn., the quiet “company town” where … Read More