Research backed tips for negotiating

Did you lie in your final negotiation?

That’s a provocative query, however a important one, as negotiation has at all times been ethically fraught terrain, the place folks have a whole lot of incentive to behave in self-interest, together with by lying. Furthermore, there’s proof that “slips of integrity” are extra seemingly within the digital interactions the COVID-19 pandemic has compelled most of us into.

Mendacity in enterprise contexts can have astronomical prices, as recommended by the latest world scandals together with Theranos, Wirecard, and others. So we have to perceive what makes deception extra seemingly in negotiation and different contexts, and what we are able to do about it.


Our new paper suggests mendacity in negotiation is linked to 2 interrelated elements: organic intercourse (versus the social assemble of gender) and situational cues. Particularly, we discovered that whereas males usually tend to lie than ladies when negotiating in a impartial context, aggressive cues propel ladies to grow to be as seemingly as males to deceive, whereas males primed to really feel empathic shall be as sincere as ladies in baseline conditions.

The findings suggest folks can take sensible steps to acknowledge and affect situational cues to seek out the “sweet spot” of their negotiations and obtain extra win-win outcomes.

Intercourse issues—however so does the scenario

We carried out 4 experiments on the affect of intercourse and situational cues on negotiation conduct.

Whereas being biologically male has been linked to self-focus that may result in higher competitiveness and unethical conduct, studies counsel ladies present equal or higher willingness to transgress. Our analysis sought to reconcile these established developments by inspecting the position of situational cues.

Within the first experiment, we examined how inclination to lie on the negotiation desk is likely to be triggered by the mere recall of conditions through which folks felt aggressive, and the way the identical urge to deceive is likely to be tamed if folks recalled conditions through which they felt empathy. In our examine, each women and men did a brief “thought experiment” to set the situational cue, after which we used the SINS scale, the gold-standard measure of deception in negotiation, to evaluate their intent to lie.

We discovered that for each women and men, the thought experiment strongly influenced their tendency to lie in a negotiation. Everybody reported higher willingness to lie when primed with “competitors,” and everybody was a lot much less prone to lie when primed with “empathy.” The straightforward cue was sufficient to extend or scale back intent to deceive.

Nonetheless, meaning to lie and truly mendacity are very various things. Definitely, many if not most of us would contemplate mendacity to serve our self-interest, however it’s the precise act of mendacity in negotiation that we wished to grasp higher. So, within the second experiment, we positioned women and men in a behavioral state of affairs the place they assumed the position of a rare-coin dealer, then requested them to barter with a purchaser (buyer). The query was whether or not women and men would lie about having one other buyer prepared to pay extra for the coin than the goal purchaser. To make sure, mendacity about choices that you simply don’t even have is taken into account the “final lie” in negotiation, and in some circumstances is even punishable by legislation.


We primed female and male members to really feel impartial, aggressive, or empathic towards the coin purchaser. Within the impartial situation, we noticed dramatic variations between males’s and ladies’s intention to lie. Twenty eight p.c of males indicated they might deceive the client, however solely 11% of girls did, suggesting males have been practically thrice extra prone to lie.

The important query was whether or not these “base charges” would change relying on the connection the participant was cued to have with the client. Within the aggressive scenario, males confirmed a barely increased incidence of mendacity than within the impartial situation (36% in comparison with 28%); however ladies turned over two occasions extra prone to lie (24% versus 11%). Equally, within the empathic scenario, the incidence of mendacity dropped considerably for males. Solely 6% acted deceptively, and solely 5% of girls did—practically the identical proportions.

Within the absence of sturdy situational cues, males are about thrice as prone to lie as ladies, however that every one adjustments when the scenario turns into aggressive (ladies lie nearly as a lot as males) or empathic (males are about as truthful as ladies).

The third and fourth experiments confirmed the differential results of aggressive and empathetic cues in additional real looking contexts. We used the basic ultimatum game, through which one celebration should suggest a division of a scarce useful resource and is tempted to lie in regards to the useful resource’s measurement. Once more, we discovered ladies usually tend to lie when cued to really feel aggressive, and males made to really feel empathic have been extra prone to be sincere. The bottom charges of mendacity amongst women and men are influenced considerably by emotions of empathy or competitiveness, closing the sex-based deception hole.

Change the cues to vary the conduct

Our examination of mendacity amongst women and men in negotiation has two main implications, each of which counsel sensible steps you possibly can take when approaching your subsequent negotiation.

First, mendacity in negotiation is linked to organic intercourse. That’s, males are extra prepared to lie in a negotiation than ladies are, all issues being equal. Males persistently show a higher tendency to manufacture or in any other case misrepresent to serve their self-interests when competing for outcomes or assets.

So, in the event you’re getting into a negotiation with a male counterparty, be extra vigilant about doable deception than you is likely to be when interacting with a girl seated throughout the desk. Wanting assuming a male counterparty is mendacity, a “belief however confirm” technique often is the proper one right here.

However the second implication emphasizes the “all issues being equal” half above. Not often do negotiations happen in an emotional vacuum. The truth is, most conditions comprise cues that may set off competitors or empathy. Thus, the social-psychological context is important. As our analysis reveals, cueing competitiveness or empathy makes negotiators extra prone to act deceptively or honorably, respectively, overriding the results of organic intercourse. So we are able to’t argue that “we’re simply born this fashion,” locked by biology into particular modes of moral or much less moral operation in negotiation and different contexts.

The concept, then, is to acknowledge how contextual cues may have an effect on you and the counterparty (taking intercourse under consideration) and to take steps to maneuver away from misrepresentation and towards cooperation. Change the context to vary the conduct.

In serious about your individual negotiation context, goal for a self-management method. Meaning figuring out cues that would affect your conduct in an imminent negotiation. Having an argumentative telephone name with a member of the family or watching an in depth recreation between your favourite sports activities staff and a rival, for instance, is prone to set off a willingness to deceive by providing you with a cue to be aggressive. A heartfelt dialog with a good friend or mentor, in distinction, will extra seemingly inspire cooperation by priming empathy.

No matter precise pre-negotiation cues, you possibly can prime empathy in your self by serious about a latest interplay with somebody you’re feeling near, whether or not a member of the family, good friend or colleague. Alternatively, as a girl getting into right into a negotiation with a person recognized for aggression, it might behoove you to prime competitiveness by serious about a rival or latest interpersonal problem.


The identical applies to approaching your counterparty. Forward of a negotiation, take into consideration their context, and take steps to shift cues towards these associated to empathy, the place doable. For instance, if assembly with a counterparty with whom you’ve engaged in hard-fought previous negotiations, remind them of the nice occasions you’ve shared somewhat than the battles you’ve waged. Even a easy assertion like, “That was an amazing meal we loved after our final assembly in New York” can prime empathetic emotions and result in a extra harmonious negotiation. For a counterparty you’ve by no means meet, asking about their welfare or discovering frequent floor—reminiscent of having children in school—can equally evoke empathetic emotions earlier than getting all the way down to the matter at hand.

Whereas organic intercourse stays immutable for most negotiators, context may be extra simply shifted. Use the concepts right here to suppose strategically about your subsequent negotiation, and the way greatest to prime your self and your counterparty for a cooperative, win-win final result.

Leigh Thompson is a professor of Administration and Organizations on the Kellogg Faculty of Administration at Northwestern College and Jason Pierce is an assistant professor of Administration on the Bryan Faculty of Enterprise and Economics, College of North Carolina Greensboro.