Think for a moment how many times you negotiate both in your personal and professional life. It might be negotiating with your partner which restaurants to go to on Saturday night or it might be a multi-million dollar business deal at work. No matter where you negotiate, psychological research has identified a particular behaviour to avoid as it has been shown it can damage future co-operation from others.

The tip is very simple – don’t smile! The research comes from 2017 from the University of Southern California’s Institute for Creative Technologies. They set up a game in which a pair of people were given a pot of money and asked (without each other’s knowledge) to do one of two things. They could either choose to ‘steal it’ or ‘share it’. If both parties chose to share it both got half the money, but if they didn’t cooperate and one stole and one shared, the person that stole would get the money and the loser nothing , so it was an interesting experiment about reading people and trying to guess what they were going to do.

By observing the volunteers, the researchers found that if the winner (the person who stole the money when the other person had chosen share it) smiled having won, then the person they were negotiating with would be less likely to be pro-social and cooperate with them in the future.

So smiling was perhaps seen as gloating and a negative thing, however when the loser of the game lost and smiled, the next time they met the same person in the game their opponent was MORE pro-social and more cooperative.

So a brief and practical insight: when you’ve been particularly successful when negotiating beware of being perceived as gloating with a big beaming smile as it might backfire as the next time you’re interacting with that person they may be less easy to negotiate with.

Please don’t forget to share this week’s insight and I’ll be back in a week’s time with some more meetology® – exploring the fascinating psychology powering exceptional people skills.

See you next week, until then take care,


Jonathan Bradshaw
The Meetology® Lab