We often associate negotiation with being tough or manipulative. While there are certainly situations where that’s the case, a great deal of the recent research says we can improve our results by thinking more about making friends than waging war.
A great deal of what it takes to influence others, gain their compliance and lead successful negotiations is just good advice on how to be a decent person.
- Be warm. We value warmth more than competence. Happy people are better negotiators. Making small talk — even when it had nothing to do with the issue at hand — dramatically increased the fairness of offers and the rate at which they were accepted. Compliments (even obvious flattery) work.
- Be optimisitc. Feeling positive about negotiations makes them more likely to work out and both parties happier with the result.
- Be polite. Just remembering the other person’s name increases compliance with requests. Asking “Is this a good time for you?” does too. Something a simple as asking someone how they’re doing, waiting for a response and acknowledging it has notable effects.
- Listen. Listening to people and asking them to tell you more makes people like you more and makes them more receptive. Listening is the fundamental skill for FBI hostage negotiators. You can learn how to be a better listener here and here.
- Offer them something to eat or drink. Yes, a cheeseburger can be an effective persuasion tool and the strategic use of coffee can make you a better negotiator.
- Don’t assume the other guy is out to get you. People are often kinder than you think. Mistrust is self-fulfilling, as is expecting others to be selfish. The most powerful strategy is often as simple as tit-for-tat. Taking advantage of the other guy, not reciprocating and being too clever have all been shown to backfire frequently.
For more on how to be a better negotiator, from the former lead international hostage for the FBI, click here.
This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.
Join over 195,000 readers. Get a free weekly update via email here.
TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email email@example.com.