To Get What You Want in a Negotiation, Be Deferential

Showing dominance in a negotiation seems like a sure-fire way to win, but a new study challenges that notion. 

One might think that when negotiating, taking a dominant stance will result in our “winning” the negotiation. However, a new study done by the University of Southern California, led by Scott Wiltermuth, challenges that idea with a bolder and seemingly counterintuitive discovery: Sometimes it’s better to act deferential. “Dominance Complementary,” wherein one person in an interaction behaves more deferentially and one more dominantly, actually leads to greater success.

Acting deferentially doesn’t mean acting classically “submissive,” in the sense of ignoring your own wishes/desires/opinions, but rather behaving in a way that makes the dominant person feel competent, respected, and unthreatened. One can do this by asking questions and creating a conversational tone. When the dominant person feels that their ego is not under attack or being questioned, it opens up the table for dialogue.

Harvard Law School's Dan Shapiro says emotions make negotiations successful, not facts and figures.

It’s worth noting, also, that the power comes in taking the opposite strategy. If the person you are negotiating with takes a deferential stance, you should take a more dominant one. The study centered around a group where half acted deferential and half dominant, matched with a control group given no instruction on how to behave. They found that when people played opposites, they were much more successful in making meaningful negotiations.

If you are ever making a “deal” with a Donald Trump-type, it might be best to follow Teddy Roosevelt’s advice to “speak softly and carry a big stick.” Likewise, if you’re negotiating with Michael Cera, it might behoove you to speak louder and use larger body language. Either way, creating a more peaceful and constructive business environment benefits us all.


LinkedIn meets Tinder in this mindful networking app

Swipe right to make the connections that could change your career.

Getty Images
Swipe right. Match. Meet over coffee or set up a call.

No, we aren't talking about Tinder. Introducing Shapr, a free app that helps people with synergistic professional goals and skill sets easily meet and collaborate.

Keep reading Show less

What’s behind our appetite for self-destruction?

Is it "perverseness," the "death drive," or something else?

Photo by Brad Neathery on Unsplash
Mind & Brain

Each new year, people vow to put an end to self-destructive habits like smoking, overeating or overspending.

Keep reading Show less

34 years ago, a KGB defector chillingly predicted modern America

A disturbing interview given by a KGB defector in 1984 describes America of today and outlines four stages of mass brainwashing used by the KGB.

Politics & Current Affairs
  • Bezmenov described this process as "a great brainwashing" which has four basic stages.
  • The first stage is called "demoralization" which takes from 15 to 20 years to achieve.
  • According to the former KGB agent, that is the minimum number of years it takes to re-educate one generation of students that is normally exposed to the ideology of its country.
Keep reading Show less

Douglas Rushkoff – It’s not the technology’s fault

It's up to us humans to re-humanize our world. An economy that prioritizes growth and profits over humanity has led to digital platforms that "strip the topsoil" of human behavior, whole industries, and the planet, giving less and less back. And only we can save us.

Think Again Podcasts
  • It's an all-hands-on-deck moment in the arc of civilization.
  • Everyone has a choice: Do you want to try to earn enough money to insulate yourself from the world you're creating— or do you want to make the world a place you don't have to insulate yourself from?
Keep reading Show less