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.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Buying Time

I often find myself in a situation where I love something my sister owns. Moreover, that item is usually not available in stores because they’ve sold out or the sister has brought it from abroad. So I would often do anything to get the item (yes, I fall for the scarcity effect more frequently than I would like to admit). Last time I fell in love, it was a fabulous purple purse.

First of all, I did my research in order to find out my best alternative to a negotiated agreement (BATNA). It turned out that the only option was to get the purse from my sister. I had to know how my sister valued the purse (her BATNA), so I started asking her questions about it (e.g., if she got bored of it; if she would like a new purse, etc.). My sister still liked her purse and wasn’t planning on placing it at my disposal.

Not only I had to negotiate the price, but I also had to make her sell the item she didn’t want to in the first place. I was honest with her and said that I was willing to buy the purse. She said no. I was ready to pay the full price, so I offered the money. She wouldn’t agree. However, I was patient and decided to wait for a while. I though that maybe she’d change her mind; maybe she’d see a new, more appealing purse while shopping; maybe she’d be in better mood next time I talk to her; but most importantly - maybe she’d need something from me.

Lewicki, Saunders, and Minton (2000) found that negotiation under time pressure involves distributive behaviour such as placing demands and making concessions. Because I was in a worse position than my sister, I could have offered her more money or started blackmailing her into agreement, which no one wants in a good negotiation. Moreover, it’s hard to make efficient judgments and decisions under time pressure, because we sacrifice the accuracy and quality of such agreements (Carnevale & Pruitt, 1992; Carroll & Payne, 1991). If I had pressured my sister, she could have possibly agreed. However, it doesn’t mean that she would have been satisfied with the deal. She is my sister, so I didn’t want to risk our relationship. Finally, ‘buying time’ is a negotiation tactic usually seen as a way to strengthen ones position and to be better able to do well personally (Lewicki et al., 2000).

So next time I approached my sister ready to talk about the purse again, she was happy about her test result. She also had a lot of homework waiting, and on top of that, she had a fish tank to clean, which she had been supposed to do two weeks ago. I offered her half the money I suggested the first time, my help with the homework and fish tank, and we finally had a deal.

I ask for what I want. I don’t take “no” for an answer. I’m persistent and patient. I’m sometimes ready to sweeten the pot and I always take time to acknowledge a good deal, and thank my sister. That’s how I negotiate to get what I want and also to please my sister so she doesn’t feel deceived.


Carnevale, P. J. D., &Pruitt, D. G. (1992). Negotiation and mediation. Annual Review of Psychology, 43, 531–582.

Carroll, J. S., & Payne, J. W. (1991). An information processing approach to two-party negotiation. Research on Negotiation in Organizations, 3, 3–34

Lewicki, R. J., Saunders, J. W., & Minton, J. W. (2000). Negotiation. Boston, MA: McGraw-Hill.

Justina Pakulnyte (5th Blog)

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