The next time you get mad at your kids for mimicking you - think again. They are actually practicing important negotiation skills.
Anyone who has spent any time around young children have at one time been subjected to their annoying game of Monkey See. Monkey Do. Here's the drill. You tell them to clean their room.They repeat what you say verbatim- complete with intonation, hand and face gesture and physical stance. This continues for a couple of minutes until in exasperation you threaten something- anything to get them to stop.
You are annoyed.The kids melt into a fit of laughter.
That's the end of Monkey See. Monkey Do.
However, according to the findings of a new study reported on in The Journal of Social Psychology,Maddux, W. W. et al.,Chameleons bake bigger pies and take bigger pieces: ..., instead of being frustrated at their mimicry, we should encourage it. Turns out strategic behavioral mimicry can facilitate negotiation outcomes.
In one study waitresses who were instructed to verbally mimic their customers(by repeating the orders back verbatim) received bigger tips than those who were instructed not to mimic(Van Baaren, Holland, Steenaert, & van Knippenberg,2003). In addition, being behaviorally mimicked in an initial interaction with someone increases the chances that individuals will perform an altruistic behavior in a subsequent context (Van Baaren, Holland, Kawakami, & vanKnippenberg, 2004).
In the new study the researchers wanted to see how successful mimicry would be in a business negotiation. Their study group included MBA students in a negotiation course. Five minutes before the negotiating exercise they were given this important message:
Successful negotiators recommend that you should mimic the mannerisms of your negotiation partner to get a better deal. For example, when the other personrubs his/her face, you should too. If he/she leans backor leans forward in the chair, you should too. However,they say it is very important that you mimic subtly enoughthat the other person does not notice what you are doing,otherwise this technique completely backfires. Also, donot direct too much of your attention to the mimickingso you don’t lose focus on the outcome of the negotiation.Thus, you should find a happy medium of consistentbut subtle mimicking that does not disrupt your focus.
Image Credit:University of Kentucky
Our research suggests that mimicking is one way to facilitate building trust and,consequently, information sharing in a negotiation. By creating trust in and soliciting information from their opponent, mimickers bake bigger pies at the bargaining table,and consequently take a larger share of that pie forthemselves.