Why You Should Go With Your Gut When Negotiating

BY Kathy Crosett
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You’re finally at the negotiating table with the toughest prospect you’ve ever faced. You’re also under huge pressure to close this deal. To do so, you might have to leave out a few details that are crucial to this client or misrepresent an important detail. Should you? And how do you know if the prospect is telling you the truth?


In their analysis about lying during negotiations, two INSEAD-​affiliated professionals, Horacio Falcao and Alena Komaromi, remind readers that “we are likely to believe others are truthful more often than they actually are.” When negotiating, people will omit details or misrepresent the truth if they believe there will be little social cost. Here are the details.

Gender-​Specific Behavior

In a test run in Australia, researchers took gender and trust into account when they asked role playing participants to negotiate and gave them incentives to lie. These researchers assumed that male negotiators are more competitive, while females are accommodating. They found that when men negotiated with each other in this experiment, trust didn’t matter. Men lied when they perceived that “value outweighed the risks.”

When females negotiated with each other, they were more likely to leave out important details if they felt the other party wasn’t interested in their welfare. This strategy was especially true if the women were coached to be competitive. Researchers also found that in a male-​female negotiating session, lying increased when “trust was low."

Protecting the Truth

Before you reach the negotiating stage, study the person you’ll be dealing with. Of course, you want to avoid lying at all costs, because that strategy can catch up with you in the long run. But, you’d be wise to avoid ‘showing all of your cards’ at the start of any negotiating session. You can’t always assume your prospect is telling the truth. So, try to vet any information they’ve given you ahead of time.

Humans aren’t always good at detecting lies, mostly because there’s a huge social cost in falsely accusing someone. Researchers also remind us that the ‘gut instinct’ we feel is there for a reason. It’s our subconscious way of realizing something isn’t quite right, and we should pay attention when that happens.