Ice Cubes To Eskimos

Price Of Nice

Being agreeable only gets you so far

Do nice guys finish last? A recent study seems to support that notion.

Two professors at Vanderbilt University's Owen Graduate School of Management in Nashville, Tennessee, spent a couple years studying behavior at the bargaining table. One key finding: Agreeable folks did worse in certain types of negotiations because they tend to value cooperation over protecting their self-interests. That might not be surprising, but how about this: Intelligence had absolutely no impact on the outcome of win-lose negotiations (where one side comes out ahead), say professors Bruce Barry and Raymond Friedman.

What does matter? Nerve and toughness, say the profs. Have them and, odds are, you'll come out on top.
If you're an agreeable person by nature, your best bet is to go into the negotiation strongly focused on what you want out of the deal--not on making nice with the other side--and you'll probably do okay, say the researchers.

Incidentally, in negotiations where true win-win outcomes are possible, intelligence does benefit a negotiator because he'll be more adept at sniffing out what really matters to the other side. In fact, in those kinds of negotiations, say Barry and Friedman, intelligence is a key factor in reaching a successful conclusion.


Robert McGarvey is Entrepreneur's "Web Smarts" columnist.


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This article was originally published in the August 2000 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Ice Cubes To Eskimos.

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