Outsiders are Better Negotiators Than Insiders

Topic(s): business strategy
Publication: Journal of Applied Psychology (2013)
Article: On being peripheral and paying attention: Prototypicality and information processing in intergroup conflict
Authors: Gerben A. Van Kleef, Wolfgang Steinel, and Astrid C. Homan
Reviewed by: Scott Charles Sitrin

In a series of four studies, researchers show that status in a group, either as an insider (i.e. a group member) or as an outsider (i.e. not a group member) is related to the ability to negotiate. For example, if you are a woman in a group of four men, on some level you are an outsider; you are different in some aspect from the majority of the group. This status as an outsider relates to your ability to perform skills that are important in a negotiation process. Outsiders experience heightened sensitivity to social cues, increased motivation to process incoming information, improved recall of information acquired, and an ability to achieve win-win solutions. So, if you an in a situation in which you are outnumbered four to one, you can take solace in the fact that being on the outside makes you a better negotiator.

Given how complexity and challenging many negotiations between groups are in business, it is often vital to pick a highly motivated negotiator who will search for, process, and assimilate as much information as possible in order to achieve the most favorable outcome for your company. In the past, many of us have assumed that sending someone with strong similarities or ties to another group would yield the best, most profitable results. These findings tell a different story.