There is something truly amazing about viral videos.  Something indescribable about why millions of people connect to the video.  Recently, I read an article in Entrepreneur magazine about what you can learn from viral videos.  The focus of the article was about marketing, but some of the points were relevant directly to negotiations and mediation.  One in particular was from Dove soap.  I have included Entrepeneur’s discussion of the video, and then will discuss its meaning to negotiations.

Dove: Real Beauty Sketches

Dove asked several women to describe themselves to a forensic artist as he sketched their faces without seeing them. He then sketched them again based only on descriptions provided by others in the group. It was inevitable that the two representations wouldn’t match exactly but the curve ball was just how altered women’s perceptions are about their own faces.
Views: 63.2 million

Why it went viral: Women are notoriously hard on themselves when it comes to their looks. This compelling ad went viral when women shared it among themselves as a reminder that we are often our own worst critics.

What negotiators can learn from this video: While you may believe the image that you wish to portray is the same image that is being communicated, the reality is that other people have a different perception of you, your style, your actions, and your comments.  You have to make sure that when negotiating, you are careful that the image you are portraying is your best attempt to accurately communicate your wishes and interests.  Are you communicating a contrary message than the one you intended to convey.  Often, during negotiations a party may express an intention, but everything else about them states the opposite.  For example, when people express their resolve to go to trial, but unwittingly give an appearance that trial is the last thing that they want to have.

Second, Entrepeneur commented that “Some of the most shareable videos are the ones that say the things we can’t.”  Often in negotiations some of the most important things are not the words but the gestures.  Jan Schau, in her blog, recently commented on how a good gesture can go a long way.  Just as in this video, an intimate moment of beauty is shared and expressed to women across the world, a small gesture can demonstrate that you care, that the other person matters, and that it is not just about the dollar.  Often, as Jan saw, it can make a huge difference.  In my case recently, the dollars were insignificant in a medical malpractice case.  The plaintiff was never going to be happy with the outcome — as far as money went.  But the small gesture made by the defendants of telling the plaintiff that although the dollars were small because it was a defensible case, the defendant had recognized that things could have been done differently. That small gesture of recognition helped to tip the scales towards resolution.