Distraction hurts, the study says. The question is whether there is such a thing called too familiar with negotiators? I doubt it does.
But recent research from the Stanford Graduate School of Business warns that knowing our negotiation partners too well or having the wrong kind of information about them can actually produce less successful negotiating results than having no information.
Their experiments looked at the effects of “nondiagnostic information” For comparison, a different group only got information directly related to the negotiation, such as which issues were more important to their negotiation partners.
Neale and Wiltermuth asked participants to represent two companies in a merger and negotiate several issues, such as which firm’s CEO would head the new company and where that company’s headquarters would locate. People who had read the irrelevant, distracting statements, it turned out, were far less accurate in identifying the issues that were least important to their partners — the very issues that offer opportunities to enlarge the size of the pie.
Specifically, participants with useless information could identify these issues only 14% of the time and fared worse than even people who had no information at all (who correctly identified the issues 26% of the time).
These results, published in the Journal of Applied Psychology, should give pause to anyone who negotiates in the real world, which includes most of us.