Archive for the ‘Communication’ Category
Parties in negotiation are often eager to gain an edge in the maneuvering. Plans sometimes are made to walk away in anger as a strategy to elicit cooperation from the other side. But is that a good idea? Researchers say faking anger is not a wise move, but expressing actually felt anger may help you in negotiations.
Why? Because if your emotion is seen as inauthentic it generates distrust. The researchers describe faking anger as “surface acting”. Surface acting is what you do when you express a feeling externally that is not the same as what you feel on the inside. According to the cited prior research, how your face looks when you “pretend” anger, is quite different from how it looks when you actually feel anger. And the other person knows and may interpret your display as “inauthentic, calculated, dishonest, and opportunistic”. On the other hand, authentic anger can make the opposition see you as “tough and unlikely to compromise” and thus, paradoxically, makes them engage. (To help the actors used in this research display “authentic anger”, they were told to remember an incident that had truly made them angry and then record the experimental script.)
The researchers looked at the impact of “surface acted anger” versus actual anger (communicated by actors using a “deep acting” strategy!) in a negotiation process. Participants were 140 university students (66 men and 74 women) between the ages of 18 and 28. They were randomly assigned to view a videotaped recording of a male negotiating a car sale with them. The person making the offer for the car described what they wanted and then, what they had concerns about with the vehicle.
There were three forms of the videotaped car purchase offer: either a faked angry presentation, a neutral presentation, or an angry presentation. They were to view the recording, decide whether to accept or reject the offer–and if they rejected the offer, to make a counter-offer. The researchers set the initial financial offer for the car at the low end of the car’s value so that a large proportion of the students would counter-offer.
And here is what the researchers found:
When you fake anger in a negotiation process, the other side is likely to “place particularly high demands on you, be relatively dissatisfied, and have little interest in working with you again” because of distrust.
The highest counter-offers were made to negotiators who faked anger, then negotiators who maintained a more neutral (aka “composed”) facade. The lowest counter-offers were made to those exhibiting a “deep acting” anger.
According to the research participants, there was no difference in what they saw as the intensity of the anger between those negotiators showing fake anger and those showing more authentic anger–they saw them as equally intense. However, they distrusted the fake angry negotiator and placed higher demands and saw the more authentically angry negotiator as tough and placed lower demands.
The researchers conclude that fake anger results in the least favorable demands from negotiation partners. Conversely, more attractive demands are made when you maintain more neutrality and the most attractive are made when you exhibit genuine anger. However–and this is the dilemma in social sciences research–these actors were not exhibiting genuine anger. They were acting and using past experiences of anger to guide their emotional expression. Even good actors display “anger” differently than you or I are likely to.
So we aren’t sure what this means for you in mediation/negotiation. Clearly, we don’t recommend you fake anger. Probably, the best bet is for you to maintain composure and emotional neutrality and take the medium counter-offer rather than the high or the low. Or if all else fails, try being genuine, whatever that might mean. If you want to settle, that is.
Côté, S., Hideg, I., & van Kleef, G. (2013). The consequences of faking anger in negotiations Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 49 (3), 453-463 DOI: 10.1016/j.jesp.2012.12.015
We’ve seen a lot of articles on the value of apology for victims (and we’ve written a number of them here) but there isn’t much out there on the value of the apology for the perpetrator of the wrong-doing. Victims tend to want apologies when they believe harm done was intentional. Victims, in this instance, often feel angry. Perpetrators, on the other hand, often especially want to offer an apology when the transgression was not intentional. Perpetrators, in this instance, often feel guilty for having harmed another.
European researchers believed these differing emotions (e.g., anger and guilt) can result in an “apology mismatch” and thus have impact on future forgiveness and reconciliation between the victim and the perpetrator. After three different experiments, the researchers reported that:
Apologies are driven by the perpetrator’s needs and they do not often consider the needs of the victim.
Perpetrator’s are more likely to apologize after unintentional transgressions due to higher levels of guilt.
Victims are not as angry after unintentional transgressions and therefore they are more likely to forgive the perpetrator.
Intentional transgressions result in the highest desire for apology from the angry victim and the lowest level of desire to apologize from the unrepentant perpetrator. A lack of apology can intensify the victim’s anger.
Ironically, the researchers cite prior research showing that when the angry victim receives the apology they say they want from the perpetrator of the intentional transgression–it doesn’t help as much as the victim anticipated it would.
Perpetrators may end up feeling guilt and thus apologizing for intentional transgressions that had unintended consequences such as pushing a friend into a pool and ruining a new smart phone in the friend’s pocket.
Overall, the researchers say, the desire for an apology and the desire to apologize are often mismatched and can result in grave difficulty reaching compromise. Those charged with mediating/negotiating solutions to such situations often find them more difficult than initially expected.
Our mock jurors often express distress in these situations. They wonder why the parties didn’t “work it out before it went so far”. When disputes involve conflict between family members, they always want the family members to drop lawsuits and go to counseling or just work out their disagreements and remember to love each other. Jurors don’t like conflict and tension any more than the rest of us do. They want to believe an apology can make all the difference in the world. The reality can be much more complex than any of us might imagine.
Consider also the import of this for mediation. Thinking in terms of the intangible/non-economic factors that facilitate resolution, this research is significant. The Plaintiff may be convinced that the wrong was done intentionally. The Defendant may feel that the damage that gave rise to the lawsuit was inadvertent, but may also feel angry or bitter that their error has been blown into a character attack. Strategies for diffusing the tension and bridging the misaligned perceptions end up feeling more like family therapy than law, but it is the very human nature of the process. What we have found can help is a mediation strategy (reinforced by the respective advocates of the parties) that:
You are justified in feeling wounded.
There are two issues at work: The compensable injury (the suit) and the personal affront (the emotional barrier to resolution).
The parties may never see eye-to-eye.
But even with the differences in perspective, both sides regret the situation, and also regret the related misunderstanding. Saying something like “I can’t honestly say that I see it the way you do, but I’m genuinely sorry that you are upset. I didn’t mean for any of this to happen” can often loosen deadlocks.
Leunissen, J., De Cremer, D., Reinders Folmer, C., & van Dijke, M. (2013). The apology mismatch: Asymmetries between victim’s need for apologies and perpetrator’s willingness to apologize Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 49 (3), 315-324 DOI: 10.1016/j.jesp.2012.12.005
Flies are annoying, dirty and often disgusting creatures. They ruin picnic foods, they buzz around our quiet bedrooms as we try to sleep, and sometimes they have the nerve to land on our bodies. That is the actual fly. In this post, we are discussing the metaphorical fly.
When you find yourself caught up in the heat of the moment of a confrontation, or after someone provokes you–it is not at all uncommon to ruminate about what happened. That rumination can lead to intensifying angry, aggressive and hostile thoughts. Wouldn’t you like to disrupt that negative cycle and have fewer negative/angry thoughts? Here’s a way we can all learn from the fly crawling around on your wall.
The challenge is learning how to distance from the “heat of the moment” and disrupt the anger and reactivity. And that’s most definitely a challenge. Researchers looking at this coping skill knew they had to provoke their participants and so they relied on a “well-established procedure for provoking individuals”. Basically it went like this:
Participants were asked to listen to an “intense” piece of classical music while trying to solve 14 different and difficult anagrams. They had 7 seconds to solve each anagram, record their answer and communicate the answer to the experimenter via an intercom. The correct answer would appear on their computer screen after they communicated via the intercom. They then had to read the word aloud and use it in a sentence. After the 4th anagram, the experimenter told the participant to speak more loudly. After the 8th anagram, the experimenter asked them to speak more loudly in an impatient tone. After the 12th anagram the experimenter said in an “extremely frustrated” voice, “Look, this is the third time I’ve had to say this! Can’t you follow directions? Speak louder!”
Participants got provoked. Go figure. Then they were asked to do a second task in which they were told to “think back on” the anagram task. Some of them were told to “see the scene in your mind’s eye” (that is, to relive the experience) and others were told to “watch the scene from a distance” (that is, from the perspective of a fly on the wall). And sure enough, those asked to distance from the recollection of the provocation/anagram task were less angry and had fewer negative feelings in general.
The researchers say this means we can distance in the moment and that by distancing, we suffer fewer negative thoughts and feelings. In short, we can reduce how long angry reactions have impact on our mood.
It’s a technique I encouraged people to try back when I was a therapist. As they would describe the infuriating way they had been treated, I would ask them to float above the memory so they were viewing the scene from above. They then related the story to me as if they were an observer rather than an actor in the drama. This strategy almost always gave them insights into their own reactions and into the motivations of the provoker. We then would plan how they would prepare for the next provocation from that person and how they wished to respond “in the moment”.
The applications of this research are myriad. Learning self-distancing is an important skill for office conflicts, personal relationships, courtroom irritations and disappointments, client management, and how you find yourself reacting to that barista taking way too long to make your coffee. As you feel the bile rising, take a moment to float above and view the situation from a fly on the wall’s perspective. Give yourself some distance. Your blood pressure will thank you.
Mischkowski, D., Kross, E., & Bushman, B. (2012). Flies on the wall are less aggressive: Self-distancing “in the heat of the moment” reduces aggressive thoughts, angry feelings and aggressive behavior Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 48 (5), 1187-1191 DOI: 10.1016/j.jesp.2012.03.012
Research shows, even though it’s now 2013, that stereotypes of women as passive, not ambitious, and not energetic continue to abound. Researchers wondered whether the proportion of women in a mixed-gender group doing a male-stereotyped task would affect gender-related evaluations of the group process.
Researchers recruited 110 students (71 women, 39 men) enrolled in a graduate level introductory management course. The average age of the participants was 26.4 years and 52% of them were White. The 110 participants were divided into 22 different five-person groups. The number of women was varied in the groups: 2 of the groups had two women among the 5 workers, 13 groups had 3 women, and 7 groups had 4 out of 5 female workers. They were assigned a group task to “build a replica of a complex model made of Legos”. They were given 30 minutes to plan a strategy and then 30 minutes to build their replica. Once they believed their replica was complete, they presented it to the judges. If it was not accurate, it was returned to them without feedback on flaws.
Following successful completion of the replica, they filled out questionnaire about their experience working with the group. Ten weeks later, they were asked one question via a web-based questionnaire: “To what extent would you be willing to work with your Legoperson team on a graded group project?”. And here is what the researchers found:
The proportion of women in the group (whether 2 members, three members, or four members in the 5 person group) had no relation to performance on building the Lego replica.
In groups that had higher proportions of female members, group members rated each other as having contributed LESS to the task completion. (It did not matter if the rater was male or female. The more women in the group, the lower the level of individual contributions was perceived to be to task completion.)
In groups that had higher proportions of female members, group members also rated the group itself as less effective. (Again, it did not matter if the rater was male or female. The higher the proportion of women in the group, the less effective the group was rated.)
Finally, in the follow-up question task (to which 65% responded) groups with higher proportions of women were less willing to work together again. (And again, it didn’t matter if the rater was male or female. If there were more women in the group, members didn’t want to work together again.)
Let’s say that again. No matter if you were a male group member or a female group member–belonging to a group with a higher proportion of women and being assigned a male-stereotyped task meant you thought more negatively of individual group members, that you had a negative sense of group effectiveness, and that you were less willing to work with the group again. And all this when there was no difference in the actual objective effectiveness of the group in terms of task completion: all groups performed equally well, but the groups with more women felt less good about it.
It’s a disturbing study. Men denigrate women. Women denigrate women. The researchers suggest that perhaps it is because gender composition has impact on how the group functions so that even high-functioning teams with higher proportions of women may not wish to work together again.
Or, it could be that men and women members of groups with predominantly more women are evaluated negatively “by association”. That is, they are in a group largely composed of women and so are all negatively evaluated by each other. Perhaps, as the researchers say, it’s a case of “catching stigma” from all those women.
And all this with no actual difference in objective outcome. It’s all about subjectivity. How do I feel about this group and perceive this group’s effectiveness? It’s sobering to consider the impact of gender composition on work groups, special project groups, and on juries.
While more research is obviously essential, it highlights the importance of educating jurors (and work groups) on what is needed for successful task completion. The jury in the Rod Blagojevich trial was 11 women and 1 man and that jury was widely lauded for effective function. Given this research, it would be curious how the individual members of that jury would rate their group function, and whether they would like to work together again.
West, T., Heilman, M., Gullett, L., Moss-Racusin, C., & Magee, J. (2012). Building blocks of bias: Gender composition predicts male and female group members’ evaluations of each other and the group Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 48 (5), 1209-1212 DOI: 10.1016/j.jesp.2012.04.012
We’ve all known for years that jurors look at standard jury pattern instructions with confusion and sometimes, abject misery. In our pretrial research, we often encourage the use of a simplified jury charge so we are sure jurors will understand the questions they are asked to answer (and so the meaningless boilerplate doesn’t take them an hour to slog through). When we use standard pattern charges in pretrial research, there are often questions about definitions, debate as to double negatives in a sentence, and confusion amongst the group over what is being asked and how (pray tell) it relates to the case.
It’s part of why we encourage trial lawyers to teach jurors how to read, understand and respond to the charge as part of their closing statement. But how do you find some straightforward and current research on just how confusing the standard pattern language is? Right here.
The latest issue of The Jury Expert contains an article by Rachel Small, Judith Platania and Brian Cutler titled Assessing the Readability of Capital Pattern Jury Instructions. And that’s exactly what the article does. The authors collected as many capital pattern jury instructions as they could (from 32 of 33 states currently allowing the death penalty). They point out the general reading level of the American population is fairly “basic”.
“Literacy levels are rated according to the following performance levels: Below basic, no more than the most simple literacy skills; Basic, the skills necessary to perform everyday reading tasks; Intermediate, the skills required to perform moderately challenging tasks; and, Proficient, the skills needed for complex reading tasks. Prose literacy, which measures the skills needed to understand and use information from continuous texts, is the form most applicable to jurors’ abilities to comprehend and apply sentencing instructions.
On average, prose literacy level of adults is identified as Basic – possessing the skills necessary to perform everyday reading tasks. Specifically, NAAL’s (2003) survey found that 29% of adults possess a basic level of prose literacy. Additionally, adults over the age of 65 were found to be more likely to receive a below basic score on the prose literacy tasks compared to other age groups. Based on this finding, it is likely that below basic levels of prose literacy are present in a substantial portion of venire persons retained for jury service.”
The language in standard pattern jury instructions does not match the likely reading level of jurors. Instead, the language is quite difficult to comprehend. The authors report that all of the state instructions were categorized as “difficult to very difficult” using the Flesch-Kincaid scoring guidelines.
We often tell our lawyer clients that we want them and any expert witnesses to be “really good middle school science teachers”. They have to speak at a level that is clear and educative as well as accurate. That level of instruction gives jurors a sense of understanding and comprehension that helps them to wade into subject areas that are challenging and complex. During mock trial research, we often hear jurors express surprise that they were able to grasp such complicated information. They are able to grasp it because the attorney and the witnesses are speaking a language that is understandable to the individual jurors.
When jury instructions are written at a level best understood by those with college educations and the level of literacy in this country is quite a ways below that standard–there is a problem. You can use this research to buttress an argument that the language is too difficult in standard pattern instructions. If that fails, you can use this research to remind you to teach jurors how to interpret the charge, point by point by point.
Small, R., Platania, J., & Cutler, B. (2013). Assessing the readability of capital pattern jury instructions. The Jury Expert, 25 (1.)