October 19, 2004

It’s the Relationship, Stupid! No,

No, this isn’t a political message. I saw a recent article by a Prof Robert Cialdini that talked about effective negotiation based on a dating experiment he did.

The daters used three styles of persuasion.

Some tried the coercive approach – – threatening their partners with consequences if they didn’t yield. The strategy was a disaster, driving the partner further away from the communicator’s position.

Others attempted to argue that they had the more reasonable view and that it made sense for their partner to adopt it. Their partners were not moved.

But a third set used a simple – and successful – procedure: the relationship-raising approach. Before requesting a change, they mentioned their existing relationship. An example: “You know, we’ve been together for a while now.”

The author asserted that the lessons from this dating experiment applied to the business world too.

This makes sense to me. It reminds me of what I tell clients about getting deals done, especially joint ventures: A good document cannot fix a bad relationship but a good relationship can fix a bad document.