Joshua Ackerman from the Sloan School of Management at MIT, Christopher Nocera from Harvard University, and John Bargh from the department of Psychology at Yale University reported their research in Science magazine on the power of haptics or touch. They ran a series of six different experiments, one of which I will highlight and that you can apply in your next difficult negotiation.
In this experiment, 49 participants were invited to a magic act where they would then be asked to guess what the secret of the act was. The 49 were randomly asked to examine objects that would be part of the act to ensure there was nothing unusual about the objects. Part of the group were asked to examine a hard piece of wood, the other half were asked to examine a soft plush blanket. After their examinations were complete, they were informed that the act would be postponed but while they waited they were asked to give their thoughts on a made up scenario involving an interaction between a boss and employee. After hearing the description of the scenario they were asked to rate the employee’s personality traits.
The odd result was that participants who had been primed by examining and touching the hard object judged the fictitious employee to be more rigid and strict as compared to the participants who had examined the plush blanket. There was actually a statistic difference between the two groups just based on the priming effect of examining two different objects – one hard, and one soft.
All of the other five experiments were similar in nature and demonstrated similar results.
How can you use this?
Well, I have seen many an office lately where people have small hand toys for folks to play with in order to aid with creativity, or just keep their hands busy. Perhaps you can add some softer items in order to literally “soften” your next difficult negotiation.