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Lead Your Team Personal Growth

Small Talk Pays Off for Male Negotiators

Small Talk Pays Off for Male Negotiators
Credit: Mopic/Shutterstock

Striking up a little casual conversation before negotiating pays off for men, but not for women, new research suggests.

Men who engage in small talk before getting down to negotiations -- compared with those who launch right into it -- not only make a much more favorable impression, but also get better results, according to research to be presented during this week's annual meeting of the Academy of Management.

On the flipside, women negotiators gain little, if anything, from such chitchat.

"Engaging in small talk enhanced perceptions of communality, liking and satisfaction with the relationship in men but not women," the study's authors wrote. "Men benefited from using small talk by receiving more favorable final offers when they engaged in small talk than when they did not."

The researchers said the findings come as a surprise, because previous research found small talk to be a plus for all negotiators, not just men, since it was seen as a means of conveying an impression of benevolence, trustworthiness and cooperativeness, as well as minimizing the likelihood of an impasse.

Alexandra A. Mislin, one of the study's authors and a professor at American University, said despite the findings, women shouldn't shun small talk altogether.

"Nothing we found suggests that it does any harm, and maybe women just have to do it better than men," Mislin said in a statement. "For men, the principal message of this study is clear: you've got more to gain from a small investment in chitchat than you may realize."

Researchers found that differing stereotypes and the expectations that derive from them are the reasons for the gender disparities.

"As compared to women, men are described as less communal, and, thus, for example, as less communicative, sociable, or concerned about others." the study's authors wrote. "Because for men communality is not assumed, they may profit a great deal from showing communal behaviors."

The results were based on an experiment involving 202 individuals from an online community where people participate in studies in return for small monetary compensation. As part of the experiment, subjects were asked to read a transcript and evaluate a negotiator named either JoAnna or Andrew who did or did not engage in small talk at the beginning of a negotiation.

After reading the transcripts the subjects responded to a series of statements about JoAnna and Andrew on the extent of their cooperativeness and willingness to compromise, as well as their likability. The researchers found that JoAnna was rated roughly equal in terms of communality and likability regardless of whether or not she engaged in small talk. However, Andrew was rated significantly higher in both when he started off with some small talk than when he didn't.

In a further test, the researchers asked participants a hypothetical question regarding how much they would pay for a parcel of land, which was being sold by JoAnna or Andrew. For JoAnna, the amounts subjects came up with were not statistically significant -- $10,090 if she had engaged in small talk and $10,195 if she had not.

For Andrew, however, the amounts were significantly different when he started off with small talk. The offer averaged $10,243 if he had gotten right down to business and $10,872 if he had chitchatted.

"The bottom line for male negotiators is that small talk not only makes a good impression but can result in a nice cash bonus," said Brooke Shaughnessy, one of the study's authors, from Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität in Germany. "For women, negotiations will always be socially risky, and it appears they need to find other ways than small talk to cultivate a positive regard in their counterparts."

The study was also co-authored by Tanja Hentschel and Claudia Peus of Technische Universität München in Germany.

Originally published on Business News Daily

Chad Brooks

Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based freelance writer who has nearly 15 years experience in the media business. A graduate of Indiana University, he spent nearly a decade as a staff reporter for the Daily Herald in suburban Chicago, covering a wide array of topics including, local and state government, crime, the legal system and education. Following his years at the newspaper Chad worked in public relations, helping promote small businesses throughout the U.S. Follow him on Twitter.