Thank you!

In the world of concessions and compromise, you may not achieve all that you want in a negotiation. Or, if you do, it may come at the expense of your counterpart. To keep a healthy business relationship, how can we maximise parties’ post-negotiation impressions of each other? 

Negotiators come to the table with goals. There are stakes involved, and possible promotions or demotions on the line. As much as we seek to remain as objective as possible, our humanness inevitably becomes tied up in the outcomes we seek.

As such, our stumbles tend feel more injurious and our wins more glorious in these environments. This emotive reaction to score-keeping does not sweep by in its pain or pleasure: it will set the tone of future interactions you have with those same people.

As important as a first impression, which anchors our attitude towards a new acquaintance, is the last impression. It is within parting moments that you can significantly shape another’s memory of the interaction.

Let’s say that you are meeting a prospective client for the first time, and hope to maintain long term business with their company. You have the upper hand and negotiate firmly. You achieve almost all of your goals, while your counterpart has compromised heavily. They are noticeably dissatisfied with the result, though they accept it out of necessity.

What is a valuable way of ending that negotiation?

One tool is the use of counterfactual framing.

Neal Roese, a social psychologist who has specialised in hindsight bias and counterfactual thinking, has outlined the consequences of this tool. In essence, our judgement may be shaped when juxtaposed to an anchor.

For instance, a coffee may be hotter after eating ice cream. Likewise, we may believe more strongly that the coffee is hotter because the ice cream is colder if it is emphasised (however irrationally).

To use counterfactual framing in the above hypothetical, what focus areas may be useful in influencing our counterparts lasting impression of us?

Pause to think.

One option is to highlight the less advantageous outcomes that were also possible. Creating the impression that the actual result was far better than other realistic paths, where more losses occurred or no deal was reached at all, can makes both parties more grateful for what was achieved.

Another option is to emphasise your sentiments of gratitude. According to social psychologist Adam Grant, using the simple words ‘thank you’ after someone has helped you can significantly increase the likelihood of them helping you again. Expressing your gratitude for your counterparts efforts can encourage them to judge you as a personally decent individual they would like to do business with again.

As well as the professional benefits you’ll receive from using this tool, it is a fantastic practice for anyone to use in their daily lives. Thinking on how you are grateful today can lift your mind from daily worries. Sharing that with others can make their day.

Counter factual framing is a road to gratitude, so try it out in your next negotiation!

With thanks to: Neal Roese and Kai EpstudeAdam Grant, and Sam Harris.

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