Behaviour Change

PROPAGANDA FOR CHANGE is a project created by the students of Behaviour Change (ps359) and Professor Thomas Hills @thomhills at the Psychology Department of the University of Warwick. This work was supported by funding from Warwick's Institute for Advanced Teaching and Learning.

Monday, March 17, 2014

"I thought that went well....."

This scene from ‘Intolerable cruelty’ shows a fairly unsuccessful negotiation between lawyers trying to settle the assets of a divorce. The lawyer of the husband, ‘Mr Rex-Roth’ first tries to get the other party on side by using a few tactics and niceties. He firstly tries to get the other party to like him by dishing out compliments “You must be the lovely Marilyn” and being friendly “Please, call me Miles.” A reason why he might have done this is because he believes using flattery may work in his favour. In fact, there has been research to suggest that we tend to like those who flatter us more (Gordon, 1996) and this could be useful as we are more likely to comply with requests of those we like. To further increase his chances of winning the negotiation he also repeatedly tries to offer them pastries. He is obviously hoping here that a bit of simple reciprocity may work in his favour. Regan (1971) found that people were more likely to like someone who had done them a favour, and found that when people were bought a coke, they then bought twice as many raffle tickets in a later condition. So, giving the other party some pastries may just soften them up a bit, and make them more likely to comply with his requests. However, they see right through these tactics and they don’t quite have the effect he was hoping for.

On realising that his persuasive tactics have failed Miles then starts the negotiations, and takes a pro-active approach and starts to state his conditions. However, the other party will not comply with any of these. Gates (2011) stated that a completely skilled negotiator is someone that has their ego in check, is balanced in their thinking, and are focused on understanding the priorities and interests of the other party. This is clearly not the case in this negotiation. As the other party won’t budge on his proposals, Miles then cuts to the chase and asks what they want from the divorce settlement. This then gives him the opportunity to discount their proposals as ludicrous. This does seem to have some effect, as the opposite party reduce their offer from asking for 50% of the marital assets, to 30%. However it seems that all in all, both parties have done their research and have a ‘Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement’ (BATNA) that they are unwilling to change. To be able to have a successful negotiation there needs to be a Zone of Possible Agreement (ZOPA) (Malhotra & Bazerman, 2007). It seems that in this case it doesn’t exist, as the negotiation fails and neither of parties are willing to change their offers.

This is therefore a classic example of how two inflated egos and a severe lack of balanced thinking can lead to unsuccessful negotiation. However, Miles seems to think it went reasonably well… much to his client’s disbelief.

Laura Clarke- Blog 5

Gates, S. (2011). The Negotiation Book: Your definite guide to successful negotiating. John Wiley & Sons.

Gordon, R.A. (1996). Impact of ingratiation on judgments and evaluations: A meta-analytic investigation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 71, 54-70.

Malhotra, D., & Bazerman, M.H. (2007). Negotiation genius: How to overcome obstacles and achieve brilliant results at the bargaining table and beyond. New York: Bantam Books.

Regan, D.T. (1971). Effects of a favour and liking on compliance. Journal of experimental social psychology, 7, 627-639. 

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