An interesting new study from the University of Chicago looks at “why sharing a plate leads to better negotiation outcomes“:
Here’s a new negotiating tactic: Enjoy a family-style meal with your counterpart before making your opening bid. When people in a business negotiation share not just a meal but a plate, they collaborate better and reach deals faster, according to new research from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.
The experiment consisted of two parts. Randomly-assigned pairs of students had a snack of chips and salsa, and either shared from the same bowls, or had their own. The pairs then had to negotiate a solution to a labor dispute; if they didn’t settle the dispute in time, a strike would be called, making subsequent rounds increasingly costly.
Essentially, participants that shared food family-style negotiated more effectively and quickly than participants that ate separately:
Teams with shared bowls took nine strike days, on average, to reach a deal, four fewer than pairs that had eaten from separate bowls. This difference translated into significant dollar values, saving both parties a combined (if hypothetical) $1.5 million in losses.
This phenomenon, the researchers write, was unrelated to how two people in a negotiating team felt about each other. Rather, what mattered was how well they coordinated their eating.