Small Talk Can Aid in NegotiationsYour client won’t reach an agreement with the other party until there is at least some level of trust that the deal will actually happen. That trust grows from perceptions of the other party and those perceptions can come from engagement in small talk prior to negotiations, according to a study discussed in Science Daily.

Researchers in the U.S. and Germany looked at how small talk prior to a negotiation affected perceptions and outcomes. They concluded that small talk is a tool that helps build social capital and increases the likelihood of beneficial gains from negotiation, especially when men are the negotiators (because of expected gender behaviors and stereotypes) in situations where small talk is not expected.

Small Talk Can Aid in Negotiations

  • Because women are expected to be more communicative, they’re expected to make small talk and earn no extra social capital for engaging in “chit chat” before a negotiation.
  • The same behavior is unexpected from men and they are given a more positive perception and more favorable final offers.
  • The benefits to men who use small talk are greater in negotiation situations where there is more ambiguity and where small talk is not normally expected.
  • If expectations are clearly defined (including expectations of small talk), men and women who small talk are seen more favorably. But this normally results in better deals for men, not women.

The research shows that when men break with expected stereotypes (in a positive way) by being chatty they benefit. Women engaging in the same behavior do not get the same benefit because that behavior is expected.

Whether you’re a man or woman, small talk can have many benefits.

  • Chit chatting may not result in big dividends, but you won’t know until you try.
  • It can help you focus on the other person and force you to end other distractions (put your hands up and step away from the smart phone).
  • The other person may end up liking you more, and
  • If the conversation is non-competitive it may also sharpen your mental skills, according to one study.

Negotiations involve two parties reaching out, trying to bridge their differences and reach a resolution to an issue in which they disagree. Though men may benefit from small talk more than women, it can be an essential tool to help parties start to communicate on much weightier issues and develop trust that’s needed to get a deal done.