How to Negotiate Effectively
The next time you plan your strategy for a tough negotiation—say, convincing your boss you deserve a raise—keep in mind that how you handle the conversation will carry over into your future relationship.
It’s common sense, but it’s also part of a broader theory of social exchange being examined by Kogod Assistant Professor Alexandra Mislin in her study of negotiation.
She studies not only the negotiation itself, but also the individual dynamics that affect the conversation before and after. For example, do you have a history with the other person? If not, what actions can you take to make it easier for him or her to trust you? Does being in a good mood make you a better negotiator? And when it comes to driving a hard bargain, is that really your best strategy?
“In negotiating, there are two things you think about. One is slicing up the pie, what we call Distributive Negotiation. You can have skills that help you get a bigger slice of pie,” Mislin says. “The other piece is what we call Integrative Negotiation. That’s where you’re basically trying to figure out together, ‘How can we maximize benefits for all of us?’”
It turns out that some of the accepted wisdom about negotiating holds up under study, while some clearly does not.
Mislin has found that, especially in negotiations between strangers, engaging in small talk beforehand helps to establish trust—one of the most important factors in the dynamic.
“There are certain things that make us more comfortable trusting people—for example, if you have something in common,” Mislin says.
While schmoozing may not affect the actual terms of the deal, her research has found that it does play a role down the road because it has a positive effect on the relationship, creating trust and cooperation.
It’s also worth paying attention to your mood. According to Mislin, happy people tend to be more cooperative and more willing to trust others.
Research also shows that the old adage to “drive a hard bargain” may not be the smart move after all. Mislin points out that while you may get your way in the short term, such a strategy can have a negative impact on your future relationship. Suppose you manage to talk a hiring candidate into taking a lower salary than she really wants to; you’ve won the battle, but what happens in the ongoing implementation, where you still need the employee to come to work cheerfully every day and do her best work?
Playing hardball might be useful in the short run, Mislin says, but most likely it will end up costing you.
One situation in which that’s not necessarily true, however, is a one-time interaction where you’re never going to deal with the person again. So go ahead and be tough on your next used-car negotiation—as long as you don’t want to buy another car from that guy.
It’s that future dynamic that has caught Mislin’s interest as a researcher.
“Surprisingly little research has focused on it as ongoing interaction, with implications for later on,” she says.
On the other hand, her work with colleagues, specifically William Bottom of Washington University in St. Louis, tries “to open the door to looking more systematically at, first of all, what we bring to the table. What’s our history? What’s going to happen after we leave the table?”