A new study finds you are more likely to succeed in negotiations if you emphasize the resource you are offering than the resource you are requesting.
For example, imagine you are trying to sell your car. Your potential buyer has inspected your lovingly maintained vehicle, asked several questions and seems interested.
There is only one thing left to discuss - the price. Do you say, "I would like $9,000 for the car," or do you say, "I give you the car for $9,000"?
The two versions of the proposal are saying the same thing - or are they? They both contain the same "facts" of the offer - the car in exchange for $9,000 - but there is a subtle difference in how they are perceived by the buyer.
The psychologists - who report their findings in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology - suggest you would be more likely to succeed in selling your car with the second version, because the first - "I would like $9,000 for the car" - emphasizes what your buyer stands to lose ($9,000), whereas "I give you the car for $9,000" emphasizes what they stand to gain (your car).
Lead author Roman Trötschel, a professor in the Leuphana University of Lüneburg in Germany, says they were able to "demonstrate that the party, whose loss is emphasized in the negotiation, is less willing to make concessions."
Prof. Trötschel and colleagues carried out eight experiments involving a total of 650 participants. The results were the same each time: if the selling party brought the resource on offer to the foreground, they achieved better outcomes.
The tactic seems to work for buyers as well. For example, if I want to buy your car, then you would be more likely to make concessions if I were to say, "I'll give you $9,000 for your car," than "I would take the car for $9,000."
The study found the approach also works when the deal does not involve money. For example, when trading Fantasy collector cards, elementary schoolchildren found they were more likely to get what they wanted if they could get their classmates to pay more attention to the cards they would gain than the cards they would lose.
Prof. Trötschel says offers such as "My Obi Wan against your Yoda" were more successful than "Your Yoda for my Obi Wan."
Tactical tip: rather than lower the price, try adding something to the offer
One of the hardest parts of the negotiation process is keeping focused on the offer. For example, when you are selling me your car, the easiest way to stay focused is to talk about the money. But doing this can slant the language of the negotiation toward what I am going to pay and, consequently, I experience the negotiation more as a loss.
Prof. Trötschel recommends sellers not to lower their price immediately, but instead, add something to the offer. He suggests, for example:
"Offer to fill up the car. Throw in the winter tires, as well as a bottle of special cleaning fluid for the paintwork. Emphasize what your vis-à-vis will gain - not the money that they would lose if you reached an agreement."
He says the trader at the Hamburg Fish Market has learned this tactic. After years of experience, he has fine-tuned his message to customers:
"I give you the salmon, and a herring free of charge, and this scrumptious plaice on top. And all of this for only 20 Euros!"
In October 2013, Medical News Today learned of another study by psychologists investigating the powers of persuasion that produced a surprising result. Contrary to what many experts might believe, maintaining eye contact can be counterproductive - it does not necessarily make you more persuasive. It can even make skeptical listeners less likely to change their minds.