It’s not about being nice. It’s about being smart and improving the odds of getting what you want.
This is a story about emotional intelligence and getting what you want. It’s the kind of practical advice you’ll find in my free e-book Improving Emotional Intelligence 2021, which you can download here.
The techniques we’ll be talking about have to do with negotiating, but they apply in many other aspects of life, too. The principles carry over into almost every interaction that you have with other people.
Really, there are five key principles or rules, each based on a principle of emotional intelligence. If you keep them in mind, you’ll find you’re more likely to see positive outcomes.
Rule No. 1: Never skip the small talk. #
I feel like this is one we’re all going to have to work on after the pandemic.
But people who have the emotional intelligence to be patient, and develop a rapport over things that aren’t critical to the conversation — in other words, engage in small talk — are far more likely to get what they want.
You don’t just have to take my word for this one. A study at the Stanford Graduate School of Business involved setting up some negotiators who conducted most of their discussions over email, and others who began with a friendly, non-agenda phone call to develop rapport ahead of time.
Since I’m citing it as support, you’ll likely guess the result:
Even though the telephone conversation was strictly nonbusiness, schmoozing negotiators anticipated and planned a cooperative, positive negotiation experience from the outset, and they attained better economic and social outcomes.
Why does it work? Well, I’ve written before about the difference between parallel responses and convergent responses during conversations. In short:
- Parallel responses are ones that suggest that you believe your process of achieving empathy is complete, on the basis of something else you’ve brought to the interaction (often, past experience).
- Convergent responses suggest that you believe the process of achieving empathy is incomplete, but that you want to work to make it complete (by continuing the discussion and learning more about the other person’s point of view).
To use an example, imagine that an employee confides that they had a very hard time coping with work during the pandemic.
- A parallel response might be something like: “I’ve had a hard time too. I understand exactly.”
- A more convergent response? Maybe: “I’ve had a hard time too. Tell me more about what’s been going on.”
One theory about why small talk becomes important in negotiations (big or small), is that they’re an exercise in attempting to reach convergence.
The more convergent your small talk is, the less awkward it will feel, and the more rapport you’ll build. Emotionally intelligent people know to work on it — and never, ever to skip it.