Sunday, July 8, 2018

Do You Have to Lie to be a Good Negotiator?

In the 21st Century it seems like not telling the truth has become an acceptable norm. Besides the ‘fake news’; and the fake stories around fake news; we’ve seen a tidal wave of bad business deals, the most catastrophic leading to the financial crisis in 2007-2008.
Leslie John in a 2016 article highlights how “robust social psychology research indicates that people lie – and lie often. One prominent study found that people tell, on average, one or two lies every day. Judging from studies done in 1999 and 2005, roughly half of those negotiating deals will lie when they have a motive and the opportunity to do so. Typically they see it as a way to gain the upper hand (although it can actually cause a backlash and prevent the kind of creative problem solving that leads to win-win deals). Deception is thus one of the intangibles that negotiators have to prepare for and take steps to prevent,” (p.114).
Social media has also increased the propensity to lie – in many cases just to try and keep up with all the other lies flying around in the social media space. Social media may have a means to bring people together – but it has also caused an environment of significant individual competition, as people try to ‘stand out’ within the social media crowd.
John mentions how “one meta-analysis (a study of studies) found that people can correctly identify whether someone is telling a lie only 54% of the time – not much better odds than a coin flip. Even the polygraph – a technology specifically engineered to detect lies in a controlled setting – is riddled with problems and comes to the wrong conclusion about a third of the time. Humans are particularly inept at recognizing lies that are cloaked in flattery: your boss promises that a promotion is coming any day now; the supplier’s assurance that your order is his top priority. We’re wired to readily accept information that conforms to our pre-existing assumptions or hopes,” (p.115).
Because lying is prevalent in the 21st Century the younger generation haven’t had a chance to ‘learn’ how to spot the difference between fact and fiction. Experience comes with time; and as the younger generation get ‘burnt’ again and again, they will eventually learn to look for the tell-tale sign of dishonest behaviour.
John highlights how “there are several science-backed strategies that can help you conduct conversations in a way that makes it more difficult for your counterpart to lie. Though these methods aren’t fail safe, they leave you better positioned to create maximum value” in a more honest environment;
Encourage Reciprocity
Ask the Right Questions
Watch for Dodging
Don’t Dwell on Confidentiality
Cultivate Leaks
“Humans have a strong inclination to reciprocate disclosure: When someone shares sensitive information with us, our instinct is to match their transparency. Reciprocity is particularly pronounced in face-to-face interactions. In experiments led separately by Arthur Aron and Constantine Sedikides, randomly paired participants who worked their way through a series of questions designed to elicit mutual self-disclosure were more likely to become friends than were pairs instructed to simply make small talk. Other research by Maurice Schweitzer and Rachel Croson shows that people lie less to those they know and trust than they do to strangers,” (p.115).
As humans we build our reputations on our integrity – and though it may take a few years to gain a reputation – once you have it, you’ll have the best competitive advantage you could possibly want – and those who have tried to lie their way to success, will find a sudden rocky road ahead and find doors closing in their faces. Lies, when they work, only give a short term benefit.
Negotiation is a true art – and if you’ve met great negotiators in your career, you’ll know what I mean. They don’t lie – to achieve success – but they know how to ‘play poker’ and when to be strong and when to fold.
“Most people like to think of themselves as honest. Yet many negotiators guard sensitive information that could undermine their competitive position. In other words they lie by omission, failing to volunteer pertinent facts. The risk of not getting the whole story is why it’s so important to test your negotiating partners with direct questions. Schweitzer and Croson found that 61% of negotiators came clean when asked about information that weakened their bargaining power, compared to 0% of those not asked. Unfortunately, this tactic can backfire. In the same experiment, 39% of negotiators who were questioned about the information ultimately lied. But you can go a long way toward avoiding that outcome by posing your questions carefully.”
If you look a politicians these days – they have lost the art of negotiating – and prefer to either misdirect or ignore questions completely. “Savvy counterparts often get around direct questions by answering not what they were asked but what they wished they’d been asked. And, unfortunately, we are not naturally gifted at detecting this sort of evasiveness. As Todd Rogers and Michael Norton have found, listeners usually don’t notice doges, often because they’ve forgotten what they originally asked. In fact, the researchers discovered that people are more impressed by eloquent sidestepping than by answers that are relevant but inarticulate,” (p.116).
Trust is something that is earned over time, by being trustworthy in all aspects of your life. “Research shows that when we work to assure the others that we’ll maintain their privacy and confidentiality, we may actually raise their suspicions, causing them to clam up and share less.”
“People inadvertently leak information in all kinds of ways, including in their questions. When people leak mindlessly, the information tends to be more accurate. Astute negotiators realize that valuable knowledge can be gained simply by listening to everything their counterpart says, even seemingly extraneous or throwaway comments – in the same way that interrogators look for statements from criminal suspects that include facts not known to the public.”
I remember being taught by my parents to ask if I didn’t know and never to lie. Those basic values are just as true today. Ignore the pressures of social media and others around you to lie – just be yourself and garner a reputation of reliability and trustworthiness – and you’ll be surprised with the rewards that this will bring to your career and your personal life too.
Finally John states that “lying surrounds us – and can be a real impediment to the creation of value in negotiation. The good news is that deploying science-backed strategies can go a long way toward bringing out the best in negotiations and in the parties involved,” (p.117).
John, L.K. (2016). Managing Yourself: How to Negotiate with a Liar. Harvard Business Review, July-August, p.114-117.