Negotiation thinking

Did you know that there’s a way to turn damaging discussions into constructive conversations? Today, our Sunday Minute tip comes from Francesca Gino, the Tandon Family Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School and the author of Sidetracked: Why Our Decisions Get Derailed, and How We Can Stick to the Plan (Harvard Business Review Press, 2013).


Sunday Minute Tip

As experienced negotiators, we sometimes approach a negotiation thinking our counterpart has little experience or not much to offer.

We tend to disregard information that challenges our views of our partner and pay too much attention to information that supports our views. Such expectations become self-fulfilling prophesies in negotiation—often to our detriment. When we feel like the expert at the bargaining table, we also may have difficulty listening to information that we consider “bad news.” We tend to rationalize that our prior view of the world was correct and reject surprising information outright. People not only find ways to justify their prior choices but also often increase their investment in a failing course of action, a phenomenon called escalation of commitment. Experienced negotiators might choose either to ignore discouraging information or be overly optimistic that they can overcome it.

We also fail to recognize that we are affected by such self-justification biases. In our research, my colleagues Bradley Staats, Diwas KC, and I made some of our participants feel like experts (for instance, by asking them to solve easy trivia questions) and then presented all the participants with bad news about a prior decision they made during the study (such as an investment of resources).

Those who had been primed to feel like experts, even though the expertise was in a different context, were more likely to stick by their bad decisions rather than make adjustments as a result of new information.

Sunday Minute Summary: Approach new counterparts with an open mind. Free of preconceived notions, you will be better equipped to use the information the other side is giving you and identify ways to come to a deal.



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