Sensational Way to Triumph in Negotiations

Before reading this post, please grab a steaming cup of coffee, and recline in the most comfortable chair you can find. If one is near, lift a warm puppy to your lap and stroke the soft, furry pet as you read. All set? Proceed.

When professor and author Thalma Lobel was ready to finalize the sale of her Tel Aviv apartment, she sat down with the buyer for final negotiations. She and her husband had determined they would go no lower than a figure they had decided upon earlier. But holding a warm cup of coffee, Lobel found herself granting the buyer price concessions she hadn’t originally intended to offer.

What made her warm to the buyer’s lower offer? Was it the warm coffee?

Lobel’s research into that question has resulted in her new book,  Sensation: The New Science of Physical Intelligence, offering insights about the impact of physical sensation on negotiating psychology that you can take right to the bank.

Who knew, for instance, that holding hot or cold beverages could have such an impact on your perception of an individual? Who knew that it makes a difference whether you’re sitting on a hard surface or a cushy armchair when it’s time to hammer out the details of your salary increase? Who knew that resumes printed on thin paper are taken less seriously than those on thick paper?

Beyond these findings are others that could contribute to greater earnings over your lifetime. Among them is the discovery that bright light can enhance your ability to generate problem-solving ideas. Or the finding that the smell of peppermint can bring about the sense your workout is less difficult than it is, leading you to get in better shape and, as a result, pursue your career more vigorously.

A book by its cover

That Lobel’s book is all about physical sensation is evident without even cracking the actual tome open. The front cover is soft to the touch, while the back cover is rough. Touching the book results, Lobel says, in “embodied cognition.”

Inside, Lobel, a research psychologist at Tel Aviv University and one of the world’s leading experts on human behavior, takes us into an understanding that unrelated environmental cues and physical experiences impact our decisions in all kinds of profound, even shocking, ways, without us ever recognizing they do.

Let’s start with the warm — and cold — coffee. In a study by Yale University professors, participants were led by a research assistant one by one into a room where they would be asked to judge someone they’d never met before.

While escorting them into the room, the assistant asked each participant to briefly hold her coffee while she juggled papers. Half the participants were handed a warm cup of coffee; the others received an iced coffee. Later, the participants who’d been given the warm coffee judged the individual they met as more warm-hearted and caring than those who’d been given the iced coffee.

Another group was instructed to hold a warm or cold therapeutic pad in a focus group. Later asked to pick between receiving gifts for themselves or for a friend, holders of the warm pad were more likely to choose the gift for a friend.

Hard and soft, red and grey

Other studies reported by Lobel demonstrated that sitting in a soft, deeply cushioned chair made individuals more open to negotiation, while sitting on a hard surface, like wooden chairs found in many libraries, made them inflexible.

In yet another study, men participating in an experiment were shown photos of a woman. In each photo, the only difference was the color of the blouse the woman wore. Each man saw the woman in either a red, blue, green or grey blouse. Asked to rate the woman, the men shown her in a red blouse rated her as more attractive, and were willing to spend more money on her on a first date.

Financial takeaways

These are just a few revelations from the book, but each points a clear path to financial behaviors as rational as choosing the best savings account or best credit cards. If you are up for a salary review, for instance, come prepared not only with a list of your job achievements, printed on the thickest paper that will travel through the printer, but several other props as well.

Devise an excuse to carry a hard-seated wooden chair into your boss’s office. Have an assistant wheel a pillow-top bed in for the boss. Arrange for another assistant to accompany you in with a tray of liquids. Proffer the steaming cup of coffee to your boss, while accepting a Slushee for yourself.

You’re sure to get the raise. It will be a great talking point on that first date you have coming up. If you’re a woman who likes first dates with big spenders, go shopping for crimson tops. If a man not inclined to blow too much money on a first date, prepare that confirming phone call.

“What to wear? Well, if you’ve got a grey blouse, that should be fine.”

Now, if you followed my instructions in the first paragraph, you can put down the coffee and the pup. You’re certain to have found this post just … sensational.

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