“Does Being Nice Help in Negotiation?”

The old adage, “You can catch more flies with honey than vinegar,” suggests that it is easier to get what we want by being nice and flattering to others, than it is to be tough and demanding.  We explored whether this rule of thumb holds true in a negotiation context.  In four experiments, both in the laboratory and in the field, we find that negotiators who take on a “warm and friendly” communication style end up with worse economic outcomes in negotiations, as compared to negotiators who take on a “tough and firm” communication style. We find this effect despite keeping economic behavior constant across conditions by fixing the value of the first offer. 

Negotiators who were trying to be “warm” expended more time and effort by writing at greater length and increasing their levels of politeness and deference to their counterpart. While counterparts to “warm” negotiators reciprocated linguistically (i.e. were warm and friendly in return), they were economically more aggressive than those paired with “tough” negotiators. “Tough” negotiators reaped financial rewards, and seemingly suffered no penalty, as counterpart negotiators indicated no difference in their enjoyment or satisfaction of the negotiation when they interacted with “warm” or “tough” negotiators. Furthermore, we find that negotiators are largely inaccurate in predicting this effect.  While acting tough resulted in economic gains at no social cost, negotiators overwhelmingly chose the wrong strategy of acting warm and friendly when presented with both options.

JEONG, Martha

Assistant Professor