Negotiating with food

One of my very first blogs was about the art of negotiation.  In it, I gave some practical and legal tips to achieve a successful negotiation.  But, little did I know that I completely omitted a key point in my negotiation tips:  the importance of food in a negotiation.  How could I possibly have missed this??!!

Several months ago, I heard a piece on NPR about a study that was published in June 2016 by two professors at the University of Chicago Business School.  These professors were publishing the results of their study about the role of food consumption in creating trust.*

The study proved the following hypotheses:

1. Strangers who ate the same food at the same time were more trusting of each other.

2.  Strangers who were assigned to eat the same foods cooperated more in a negotiation setting.

3.  When negotiators on separate sides of an argument consumed the same foods at the same time, they were able to come to a faster resolution that was beneficial for both parties.

Negotiations by their very nature contain incentives that can foster competition. When two parties are each negotiating to achieve their own goals based on their position relative to the subject matter, they are automatically at different ends of a spectrum, regardless of how close their goals may actually be.

The research suggested that one way to establish a positive connection and increase cooperation between negotiating parties is to have them consume the same foods at the same time.  The professors concluded that breaking the same bread together fosters bonds, cooperation and trust.  (Their research findings even noted that the English word “companion” comes from the Latin “cum pane” or literally translated “the person you share bread with”.)

My conclusion:  If you have a tricky negotiation, whether a merger, contentious dispute or otherwise, if the circumstances permit, invite the two sides to a nice meal where the same foods are served.  By bringing food to the table, and negotiating on a full stomach, a meeting of the minds may be achieved more quickly.  Definitely food for thought. 🙂

As always, thanks for reading and I’d love to hear your thoughts and feedback.  Please send me an email or share your comments here.

Until next time,

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