An important part of every negotiation is identifying what information you need from your counterpart and then getting it. Effective information gathering will not occur unless you create the appropriate atmosphere. One information gathering technique I recommend is the “big schmooze.” This rapport-building technique is based on the Liking Principle. Psychologist Robert Cialdini, in his classic bestseller Influence: Science and Practice, writes “[w]e most prefer to say yes to the requests of someone we know and like.” Finding shared beliefs, attitudes and experiences with your counterpart will help establish true rapport and will help you get critical information.
Just in the last week, I have had rapport-building conversations in a number of negotiation contexts about parenting a young child, vacations to the same place, being a fan of the same sports team, sharing the same city of birth, and enjoying similar music. These are just a few examples of things you might have in common with your counterpart. Interestingly, the Liking Rule generally holds true even when the recipient knows it’s occurring.
One final note – don’t pretend to like something similar if it’s not true just to build rapport. Your credibility is too important to put at risk.