Researchers Discovered a Linguistic Trick That Will Help You Negotiate Anything

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By Shana Lebowitz

In everyday negotiations, the way you frame your proposal may be just as important as the product or services you're offering.

That's the takeaway from recent research, which suggests that you should emphasize what you're giving the other person as opposed to what they're losing. That way, your partner will be more likely to concede.The study, conducted by researchers at Leuphana University and Saarland University in Germany, tested this phenomenon in a range of hypothetical settings, including buying and selling used appliances and bargaining for fruit.

In one experiment, 87 participants were divided into "buyers" and "sellers" and were asked to rate proposals they received from a simulated negotiation partner.

In some cases, they received offers (e.g. "The seller offers the refrigerator for a price of €160," or, "The buyer offers a price of €160 for the refrigerator"). In other cases, they received requests (e.g. "The seller requests a price of €160 for the refrigerator," or, "The buyer requests the refrigerator for a price of €160").

Results showed that both buyers and sellers were more likely to concede when they focused on what they were going to gain from the negotiation (offers), in contrast to what they were going to lose (requests).

In a release, study co-author Roman Trötschel, Ph.D., offered advice to salespeople based on his findings: "Saying: 'I'll give you my car for 9,000 Euros,' draws the attention of your opponent on your car — which is what they can gain."

On the other hand, if you say, "I want 9,000 Euros for my car," you unintentionally "emphasize the resource they would lose in case a deal is struck, namely the money he needs to shell out for the car," Trötschel said.

The same idea applies in negotiations that don't involve money. In another experiment, the researchers had kids frame proposals in different ways when trading collectible cards. Sure enough, the kids were more likely to concede when their partner highlighted the cards they would gain, instead of the ones they were giving away.

You could reasonably use this strategy when petitioning your boss for a pay raise. Instead of leading with a request for a salary adjustment and emphasizing what your company is going to lose (money), start by highlighting what they're going to gain (your increased effort at your job).

You might say something like: "I've been spearheading this client project all year, and I'm planning to tackle the next one, too. I feel that a 10% raise is warranted."

Ultimately, whether you're trying to score a pay bump or sell a used bike, it's less about tricking your negotiation partner and more about getting them to see things from a different perspective.
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