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 10, 2014

A Friendly Negotiation

*Chandler buzzes Rachel*
Chandler: Could you come in here a moment please Rachel?
*Rachel enters office to find Chandler handcuffed to a chair.*
Chandler: OK here’s the situation, the keys to the cuffs are on the back of the door, could you be a doll and grab them and scoot on over here and unlock me? And on a totally separate subject that is a lovely pant suit.
Rachel: You promised you would break up with her.
Rachel: You know what Chandler, you got yourself into those cuffs, you get yourself out of them.
Chandler: No, no, no, no, no, no, I can’t get myself right out of them. You must have me confused with the amazing Chandler. Come on, you have to unlock me, she could be gone for hours, and I’m cold…
Rachel: NO Chandler! Alright this is it; you never see Joanna again.
Chandler: Never
Rachel: You never come into this office again.
Chandler: Fine
*Rachel releases Chandler.*

This is a negotiation from the classic sitcom ‘Friends’. Although there are many negatives to Chandler’s negotiating style, as can be seen from the concessions he has to make at the end, he does use some good techniques.

Firstly, he gets Rachel to comply to a small request of coming into the office. This is use of the foot-in-the-door technique which says that getting someone to comply to a small request makes them more likely to comply to a larger request afterwards. Freedman and Fraser (1966) tested this experimentally by first phoning participants to ask them questions about what household products they used. Three days later, they phoned again asking if five or six men could come into their house for 2 hours to classify all the household products they used. Over 50% of participants who cooperated originally agreed to the larger request 3 days later. Because Chandler has got Rachel to comply to the first request she is now more likely to comply with the second request of releasing him.

Secondly, he gives reasons for needing to be released; he’s cold and ‘she might be gone for hours’. Langer, Blank and Chanowitz (1978) demonstrated the value of giving a reason for you actions to induce compliance. They had confederates in a copier line saying either “Excuse me, I have 5 pages. May I use the Xerox machine?”, “Excuse me I have 5 pages. May I use the Xerox machine, because I’m in a rush?” or “Excuse me, I have 5 pages. May I use the Xerox machine, because I have to make copies?” They found that just the act of giving a reason, even if it is arbitrary as in the third example, significantly increases people’s likeliness to comply.
However, Chandler does make errors. By repeating ‘No’ and using phrases such as ‘You have to unlock me’ he reiterates his helplessness and thus backs himself into a corner. Rachel realises that she is in the advantaged negotiation position and gets Chandler to agree to concessions before releasing him.

Although Chandler is clearly disadvantaged throughout this negotiation, considering his standpoint he uses negotiation techniques well to result in himself being freed and only making a couple of concessions along the way.


Freedman, J. L. & Fraser, S. C. (1966). Compliance without pressure: The foot-in-the-door technique. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 4(2), 195-202.

Langer, E., Blank, A. & Chanowitz, B. (1978). The mindlessness of ostensibly thoughtful action: The role of “Placebic” information in interpersonal interaction. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 36(6), 635-642.

Eleanor Silk   Blog 5

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