Negotiating Tip #55:
Differences Create Opportunities
Our next group of negotiating tips comes from our book (Creative Conflict: A Practical Guide for Business Negotiators) available from Harvard Business Review Press. See “Book” link in header menu above.
In a study in Basic and Applied Social Psychology, 74 dating couples squared off in a simulated negotiation, with 32 mixed-sex pairs of complete strangers as a control group. Here’s what the research found: The romantic couples “had lower outcome aspirations” and “less frequently generated offers which facilitate the discovery of mutually beneficial outcomes.”
They were less aggressive and quicker to defer and agree—too quick, as it turned out, to grind their way to an out-of-the-box solution. The more fiercely committed the couple, the less effectively they negotiated. The strangers were far superior collaborators. Their unchecked friction sparked better all-around deals.
Differences drive the creative process in many settings. Bill Gates and Paul Allen were famous for their screaming matches, but their partnership hatched the software that launched the personal computer revolution. In their effort to one-up each other, Matisse and Picasso sometimes painted the same subject. As a critic wrote, “Picasso became Picasso because he would not let Matisse outshine him.”
Many of us dislike conflict; we want others to like us, and we fear that conflict makes us seem unreasonable. We at Mobus Creative Negotiating show how conflict isn’t a hindrance to negotiating, nor even a necessary evil. It is a goldmine of concealed value, an opportunity to find more profitable ways to satisfy both sides’ needs. What we teach is how to direct conflict in productive directions, how to unlock the potential inherent in differences.