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Negotiation: Persuasion Through Likeability

by Nancy Hudgins

From the blog of Nancy Hudgins

Nancy  Hudgins
Lincoln, a legendary lawyer as well as president, once said, “The only lasting way to eliminate an enemy is to make him your friend.”

Professor Robert Cialdini’s seminal book, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, cites seven “weapons” of influence. I've previoulsy posted about one of them, reciprocity. (See links below.)

Likeability, Cialdini’s research shows, is another way in which we can influence people. It’s the key reason that when I’ve tried cases, I’ve always tried to be the nicest person in the courtroom. Jurors are human, and they are more likely to be susceptible to persuasion from someone they like.

In mediation, being the most likeable person in the mediation room can work to your client’s advantage as well. This involves “making nice,” a different mind-set than the warrior mentality often seen in litigation. This mind-set is sometimes encouraged by the client and sometimes by the milieu in which lawyers work. We need to educate our clients that the warrior mind-set they want to see is almost always counter-productive in mediation, especially in the joint session.

One of our default modes of thinking is to like people who are similar to us. Cialdini has found that similar backgrounds, similar interests and even similar dress can all increase liking. Familiarity can lead to greater liking. Therefore having more personal contact with opposing counsel before mediation is a way to increase the likelihood of persuasion through likeability at mediation. You can lay the ground work from the inception of the case.

Cialdini always provides a strategy to counter influencing behavior. For likeability, he recommends being aware of undue liking, that is, to separate the negotiator from the merits of the negotiation.

Rather than making the other side your enemy, consider making them your friends. There’s also the potential reward that you’ll like yourself better, too.

Related links:

The Rule of Reciprocation

Negotiation: Getting the Rule of Reciprocation to Work for You

Inoculate Against the Rule of Reciprocation

Biography


Nancy Hudgins, a San Francisco mediator and lawyer, began specializing in civil litigation in the 1970's. She has represented both plaintiffs and defendants, chiefly in personal injury, medical malpractice, elder abuse and product liability lawsuits, but also in a wide variety of complex litigation, including civil rights, fraud and class actions. She has settled and mediated thousands of cases. In addition to civil litigation mediation, she also co-mediates divorces with John Duda, a marriage and family therapist.



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