Asking Advice to your Counterpart in Negotiations

Negotiating and Bargaining
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Chloe Xu
Director, Australia

Asking Advice to your Counterpart in Negotiations

In negotiation, seeking advice from others or even your counterpart could be an effective strategy, even if working WITH your counterpart seems counter effective at first sight. The possible benefits generated by advice seeking can be:
  • PROBLEM SOLVING. It is obvious that asking questions helps you find solutions to genuine problems. An advice request shows your interest in the counterpart’s ideas and encourages him/her to propose solutions you might never have thought of. In addition, seeking advice can disarm potentially defensive opponents. When asking for advice rather than issuing demands or attacks, you will be able to frame the negotiation as a joint problem solving task and establish a norm for collaboration.
  • FLATTERY. Accordingly to research, in difficult negotiation situations, asking for advice will increase your likability. Does it matter if your counterpart likes you? Research indicates that likeability works even better than perceived competence in hiring and other activities. Asking for advice is an implicit endorsement of someone’s opinions, values, and expertise. Furthermore, because advice requests signal respect, they are possible to flatter almost anyone.
  • PERSPECTIVE TAKING. One study shows that advice requests turned negotiators into better perspective takers. A powerful force in negotiation, perspective taking enables different parties to understand each other’s underlying interests, work out creative solutions together, and avoid harsh attributions for behaviour.
  • COMMITMENT. Delivering advice requires a small amount of time, but it creates an invaluable sense of commitment. At the bargaining table, a negotiator who is asked for and gives advice is much more likely to follow through on any negotiated agreement he/she helps create. This is especially true when you’re dealing with agents in negotiations. When seeking advice from others, you give a part of responsibility for your outcome to your counterpart and motivate him/her to advocate for your cause to her principal, the ultimate decision-maker.
What do you think of the role advice seeking plays at the negotiation table?

Sources: PON (2016). How to Work with Your Counterpart in Negotiations. Program on Negotiation, Harvard Law School.

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