Negotiating Nice Pays Off

Nice Guys Don't Finish Last

I was exhausted. I had been forced to take the redeye flight from Seattle to Houston in order to make a 10 a.m. meeting and arrived at the hotel at 6:30 a.m. with only a few hours intermittent sleep.

I also had been forced to keep my hotel reservation for the night before as the hotel could not guarantee an early check in given its near full booking. So I was on the hook to pay for a for a hotel night I couldn’t use.

While willing to pay it, I wanted to get the hotel to waive that charge.

What did I do? I made a point to be especially friendly, even though I just wanted to crawl in bed for an hour or so before grabbing a cab to go to my meeting. In effect, I threw myself on the mercy of the hotel desk clerk and commiserated about the challenges of being on the road and taking the redeye.

The clerk reciprocated my attitude, expressing his understanding of my predicament. He had worked at the hotel desk all night. I then asked if he could possibly take care of the charge for the night before, and he agreed. He then waived the fee and upgraded me at no additional charge to one of their penthouse suites for the duration of my stay.

The negotiation lesson? Being nice is not only the right way to negotiate, it’s almost always also the most effective approach. Social psychologist Robert Cialdini, author of the bestseller Influence: Science and Practice (an extremely well researched book I highly recommend), calls this The Liking Principle. His research has found we’re more likely to say yes to people we like than those we dislike.

Of course, this works both ways. My cabdriver taking me to my morning meeting was especially sociable. He had recently retired from Shell Oil after 30 years, and he didn’t have many financial worries because his retirement account included a lot of Shell stock that had exponentially increased during this time period.

As he told me, he was driving a cab to keep busy and because he liked people. We had a really nice 30-minute conversation – and he received a really nice tip. I also became a repeat customer for him, arranging at that time for a return ride after my meeting. He was especially nice to me, and I was happy to reciprocate.

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