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Negotiations tend to be adversarial and almost hostile by nature. Every party involved in these communications has their own unique goal, and those objectives do not always align with the priorities of others.

As Psychology Today noted, one of the biggest reasons many of these discussions fail or come to unsatisfactory conclusions is because people are too egocentric in their approach to negotiations. People have a tendency to look only at their side's perspective and fight vehemently to come as close as possible to achieving an outcome that is beneficial to them.

But what about the other side? People may view negotiations as being adversarial, however, in reality, they are anything but that. Whether businesses are negotiating with another company or if department heads are working with another business unit or team internally, organizations should want all sides to come out of the conversation in a position to thrive. Yet few people keep this in mind – they tend to bring a very egocentric approach with them to the negotiation table.

A study on egocentrism and negotiation
One study conducted by the Journal of Experimental and Social Psychology noted how egocentric negotiations can be. The experiment incentivized two respondents to negotiate around a few key set of issues, with the pair of negotiators who scored the most points winning a cash prize. Each issue was weighted differently, which was designed to encourage people to give and take when it came to these conversations.

However, as it turned out, people tended to assume that whatever issue was important for their side was also a priority for the other, even though this was not the case. Many pairs missed opportunities to maximize their points because they simply assumed that by getting as many points as possible individually, they would come out on top. It was only when people had nothing riding on a particular point or issue they would be able to fairly evaluate and assess the other party's position.

"When we have a particular desired outcome in a negotiation, we bring a frame to that negotiation that assumes that our rival is our exact opposite," Psychology Today contributor Art Markman explained. "We expect that issues important to us are also important to our rival. We expect that our rivals want the opposite of what we want."

"This attitude can make it harder to negotiate successfully, because our rivals often are not like us," Markman concluded. "They have different priorities, and sometimes they even want the same outcome we do."

Learning how to negotiate successfully
What the Journal of Experimental and Social Psychology did not consider, however, is the fact that negotiating is a skill that can be learned. While people may be egocentric by nature, they can learn how to better understand the position of the people on the other side of the table and navigate through obstacles to successful negotiations.