How is Your Attitude? It makes a difference!

PGP Mediation Blog by Phyllis G. Pollack

There is a saying among mediators: often at the start of a mediation, the mediator is the only optimistic person in the room. She is the only one who believes the matter will settle.

It turns out that there is something to this adage. In a blog post by the staff at  Harvard’s PONS entitled “Do Attitudes In Negotiation Influence Results?” (July 28, 2020), the authors discuss research that showed that your attitude towards and in a negotiation does make a difference. If you are one who thinks that you can improve your negotiation ability and thus the outcome, you are  very likely to reach a much better resolution than one who believes in fate and thinks that negotiation ability is innate and nothing can be done to change the result or outcome. (Id.)  It turns out that having a positive attitude (along with high expectations) towards and in a negotiation will indeed affect the results, leading to a better result. (Id.)

Professors Kathleen M. O’Connor of Cornell University and Josh A. Arnold of California State University conducted research on what effect does one’s attitude have towards negotiation, particularly if one views it as a threat or as a challenge.

The researchers examined the outcomes achieved by the study of participants who placed themselves in one of the two categories. When talks had integrative potential (also called a win-win situation), participants who viewed negotiation as a challenge were better at identifying and capturing opportunities to expand the pie than were those who viewed it as a threat. But in purely distributive (win-lose) negotiations, no significant difference in outcomes existed between the ‘threat’ and ‘challenge’ groups. (Id.)

Thus, in an interest-based negotiation (or win-win), a party who views negotiation as a challenge will indeed reach a better result than one who views negotiation as a threat. In contrast, neither the optimist or the pessimist will fare any differently if the negotiation is a win-lose or zero-sum game.

So, there are two points to be gleaned here: engage in interest based or win-win negotiations whenever possible and be optimistic viewing the negotiation as a challenge (and not as a threat). You will end up with a much better result!

… Just something to think about!


Phyllis Pollack

Phyllis Pollack with PGP Mediation uses a facilitative, interest-based approach. Her preferred mediation style is facilitative in the belief that the best and most durable resolutions are those achieved by the parties themselves. The parties generally know the business issues and priorities, personalities and obstacles to a successful resolution as… MORE >

Featured Mediators

View all

Read these next


Context, Consequences And Conditions: A Book Review On “Non-Adversarial Justice”

Book Review On “Non-Adversarial Justice” By Michael King, Arie Freiberg, Becky Batagol, Ross Hyams Federation Press 2009 ‘Non-Adversarial Justice’ provides a cognitive map of the present terrain of alternative, additional...

By Michelle Brenner

The Bias Against Non-Attorney Mediators

In the past eight years I have spent the majority of my time building up a busy divorce and custody practice. We now have six attorneys and conclude hundreds of...

By Howard Iken

Wanted: Diverse Divorce Practitioners. Why Diversity is Good for All of Us

Cultural competence and sensitivity to the needs of diverse clients are an essential part of being an effective and successful professional. My father-in-law recently underwent surgery to remove a kidney...

By Valerie Qian

Find a Mediator