What’s more powerful in negotiating: dirty tricks or being a decent person?



Do nice guys make more money? To quote a researcher, “Nice guys are getting the shaft.”

…men who measured below average on agreeableness earned about 18% more—or $9,772 more annually in their sample—than nicer guys. Ruder women, meanwhile, earned about 5% or $1,828 more than their agreeable counterparts.

“Nice guys are getting the shaft,” says study co-author Beth A. Livingston, an assistant professor of human resource studies at Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations.

We hear a lot about win-win negotiating but when it comes to salary negotiations, those who push for the most money — purely out of self-interest — come out ahead.

Don’t kid yourself; less-than-fair-and-honest tactics definitely work. Does insincere flattery make you cringe? Well, even if it’s obvious, it’s effective:

Furthermore, the implicit attitude has more influential consequences than the explicit attitude, highlighting the possible subtle impact of flattery even when a person has consciously corrected for it.

My friend Chris was the FBI’s lead international hostage negotiator. How does a hostage negotiator buy a car?

A lowball offer combined with repeating “I just don’t have that much money.” He discusses it with NPR here, 8 minutes and 30 seconds in:

At the more extreme end of the spectrum, renowned negotiator Jim Camp recommends “Painting a picture of your opponent’s pain.” How does that work?

What’s the worst thing that could happen to the other side if they don’t make this deal? You want to make sure they’re well aware — perhaps too aware — of how life bad could get.

Via Start with NO:

So your challenge as a negotiator is to discover and paint for your adversary the clearest possible picture of their pain while always nurturing... The clearer your adversary’s vision of his pain, the easier the decision making process… If they don’t know their pain, they’ll never make the deal.

Is negotiation all about deception or painting pain? No.

A great deal of what it takes to influence others, gain their compliance and lead successful negotiations is just good advice on how to be a decent person:

people who are given an opportunity to make small talk before a negotiation are more likely to reach an agreement.

  • Don’t assume the other guy is out to get you. Mistrust is self-fulfilling. The research of Robert Axelrod shows that the most powerful strategy is often as simple as tit-for-tat. Taking advantage of the other guy and not reciprocating have been shown in studies to backfire frequently.

So what’s more effective? Nice guy or not-so-nice-guy? Depends on the situation. If the other party has few options bullying is effective. If you’re going to be negotiating with a party more than once, be nice.

There are a range of methods you can use to negotiate, no matter what you’re comfortable with. What’s important is to study and to practice.

That said… what should you do if you get caught red-handed while being shady? Smile:

“Smiling targets received more leniency than nonsmiling targets, although they were not seen as less guilty.”

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