Why being right could be wrong (and how interests-based negotiation makes you smarter)

A few months ago I wrote a post about how we are hardwired to be right. In a negotiation, this can lead us to become positional and prevent us from seeing value creating options which would alleviate our problems. It turns out that there’s another problem with needing to be right – it reduces our IQ!

That sounds kind of shocking so bear with me while I explain how this can be true.

Research by Princeton University found that poor people performed worse on cognitive tests than richer people. Now, this is not to say that rich people are smarter than poor people. In fact, in a control experiment, rich and poor performed equally well. But, when primed by being asked to think about a financial decision which was significant for the poor and insignificant for the rich, the performance of the poor subjects fell by around 12-13%. That’s a significant decline in IQ.

So what’s going on?

The researchers concluded that when faced with a situation of scarcity, our brains become overtaxed and our ability to process information is severely compromised. They differentiated a sense of scarcity from stress. Research has shown that stress can actually enhance performance.

When a person is pre-occupied with immediate financial concerns, so much brain power is devoted to these concerns that they have less power to deal with other matters.

How is this relevant to negotiation?

For many people, their natural approach to negotiation is one of win-lose – “I need to fight hard in this negotiation to get what’s good for me”. The problem with this is that by seeing the negotiation in terms of win-lose, we create a mindset of scarcity – “There can only be one winner and I want it to be me!”.

Bringing this mindset of scarcity to the negotiation sets you up for a situation where your ability to think clearly in the negotiation is compromised.

So what should you do?

Fortunately, there’s a great solution to this problem. By adopting a principled, or interests-based approach to negotiation, you move away from the need to win and avoid the problem of scarcity. You approach negotiation in a way which recognises that all parties can win.

The 7 Elements of Negotiation

The 7 Elements of Negotiation

For some people, the transition from adversarial to interests-based negotiation may require a significant change in mindset. The transition can be made easier by having a solid understanding of the 7 Elements of Negotiation.

So, we may be hard-wired to win, but with a bit of effort we can change that wiring and stay smart in the process.

Download our free Harvard-based negotiation planner here to get started.  To learn more about interest based negotiation, we recommend the book “Getting to Yes by Roger Fisher & William Ury.” 


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