Why It Pays to Get Inside the Head of Your Opponent

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Drew De Amicis-Roberts
Introduction to Psychology
Summer 2009

The Journal of Psychological Science

Adam D. Galinsky, William W. Maddux, Debra Gilin, and Judith B. White

Why It Pays to Get Inside the Head of Your Opponent

The Differential Effects of Perspective Taking and Empathy in Negotiations

July 16, 2007
Revision Accepted November 27, 2007

Volume 19 Number 4

Pages 378 -384

The article “Why It Pays to Get Inside the Head of Your Opponent” looks at the effects of two social competencies in negotiations. Perspective taking and empathy are the two different approaches that are studied in this article to determine the possible different effects they each have on the outcome of negotiations.

The authors use a political example to illustrate a successful negotiation where President John F. Kennedy was trying to prevent a potential annihilation by offering a promise that the United States would not invade Cuba in the future if in exchange all nuclear weapons were removed from Cuba. This appealed to the need of Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev which created the ability to obtain desired outcome that President Kennedy was trying to achieve. This shows the importance of how a negotiation is performed can have an impact on life effecting situations.

The authors stress the importance of knowing an opponents interests and the qualities of those interests imperative to achieving a successful negotiation. The clear benefits/gain must be appealing enough to an opponents personal interest to consider. Only by knowing and understanding the interests, motives and likely behaviors of an opponent, make it possible to identify what leverage would enable the acceptance of a proposed offer.

It is pointed out that even though these two approaches are used interchangeably they are actually different in many ways. They are different in that they require different abilities, the motives behind them, how they are communicated and in the results they have.

Perspective taking is the cognitive ability to consider the world through another persons viewpoint which one can foresee the behavior and reaction of another. On the other hand, empathy is having an ability to have an emotional concern that is engaged with another person’s experience which one can then create a connection.

In order to find out which strategy is more effective in negotiation the authors conduct three different studies using full time MBA students that were enrolled in a negotiation course. Then reported their findings from measuring and manipulating both perspective taking and empathy to reveal their influences.

The first study was a negotiation of a purchase of a gas station where a buyers offering price was lower than the sellers acceptable sales price.

The second study additionally, was measuring individuals satisfaction with how they were treated within the negotiation process when the perspective taker position was used compared to when the empathetic position was used. The results showed that when the empathetic position was used, there was a higher level of satisfaction. But it was the perspective taking approach that was most likely to achieve a solution, close a deal that met the needs of both sides.

The third study manipulated the two approaches to find out how they affected the gains on an individual level and on a joint level. They found that the perspective taking approach achieved the maximum joint gain. The maximum individual gain was achieved when the perspective taking approach was used when empathy for the side was already present.

Overall, the authors concluded from their studies that the specific influences of the two approaches do have different effects on the outcome of negotiations. Perspective taking had higher rate of negotiation success that was consistent, was more likely to find creative solutions, identify underlying interests, resulted in higher mutual and individual gains and overall...
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