Let’s say you want to ask your boss for a raise, one that puts you at $US100,000.
What’s the best way to phrase your question?
Co-authors Daniel Ames and Malia Mason found that the “bolstering range offer” — where you ask for a range including and above your target number — provides the best approach.
Organizational psychologists used to think that presenting a range would do more harm than good, assuming that people would fixate on the lower number. But Ames’ and Mason’s research suggests that people take both the high and the low end of the range as signals for what you really want.
The researchers discovered that two mechanisms were at work when people negotiate, and the “bolstering range offer” leverages each of them.
There’s the informational effect, which means that people take each end of a range as a signal of what people are really asking for; and there’s the politeness effect, which describes how pro-social the offer appears to be.
Ames and Mason found that offering a range strikes people as more reasonable than standing firm on a single number, so you’re less likely to get hit with an extreme counteroffer, which suddenly become way less polite.
“Range offers can sometimes be an effective way of asking for more,” Ames said on Science Daily, “without driving your counterpart away.”
In the experiments, people who insisted on a single number were more likely to get no deal at all, since the firmness lead to negotiations being abandoned altogether.
Ames and Mason got to those conclusions after five studies of different negotiating situations, including haggling with an event cater, trying to get the right price on a used car, and sorting out a salary.
The “bolstering range” was revealed to be the go-to tactic, since you give yourself a shot at getting a better deal — while still appearing super friendly.
This study further confirms just how social — and subtle — of an activity negotiating really is. Beyond offering up a range as a signal of reasonability, the research shows that if you mimic the other person’s body language you’ll put them at ease, which helps create a win-win for everybody involved.
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