Getting Accurate Information from the Other Side

We all shade the truth sometimes.  As negotiators, we want to know if the other side is being forthright or telling us what we want to hear.

In a  new study – by Terri Kurtzberg at Rutgers University and Charles Naquin at DePaul University – 137 graduate students participated in a mock bargaining exercise where at stake was a pot of money for the two sides to split and the issue was who got how much of the pot.  One person told the other, “the size of the pot is X; I’m offering you Y.” Half used laptops; half spoke by phone. In the words of Emily Holland’s Wall Street Journal June 12, 2023, article about the study, “the laptop users lied more about the size of the pot in the hopes of keeping more of it for themselves” (, behind a paywall).

Why did people lie more on the laptop than on the phone?  Kurtzberg and Naquin did some follow-up work to show that people regarded their laptop exchanges as professional but their phone calls as personal, and people feel they can take greater liberties in business exchanges than in personal ones.  As Holland phrased it, there is “a general cultural understanding that when it comes to ‘business,’ success matters more than anything else, so the ends justifies the means.”

The lesson from this study is NOT to use the phone instead of the computer.  Instead, it is: get the other side to see their exchanges with you as a personal matter, not just a business deal.  The more the other side sees you as a person rather than simply as a business negotiator, the more likely they are to level with you, to tell you how things really stand.

We at Mobus Creative Negotiating can teach you a variety of ways to personalize your negotiations, that is, to get the other side to see you as a person.  The more they see you as a person, the more likely they are to open up.  And that generates more opportunities to explore creative solutions which can benefit both of you.