The next time a colleague suggests a meeting at their location move it to a neutral location. If you’re seeking to gain the edge over a business rival, it’s worth considering staying close to home.
For example, are people more persuasive in negotiations conducted in their own offices rather than in unfamiliar venues? In a set of studies recently published in the journal Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, researchers Graham Brown and Markus Baer set out to answer this very question.
The researchers began by recruiting businesspeople in pairs to take part in a series of contract negotiations. In each case, one was assigned the role of purchaser and the other the supplier. As you might imagine, a lot of the negotiations were centred on price, with purchasers wanting to pay as little as possible and suppliers wanting the opposite.
On each occasion, the parties were led to offices where one was given ‘home status’ and the other ‘away status’. The home teams were able to personalise the negotiation environment by displaying their name and logo outside the office, choose which chair they sat in, place posters and on the walls, display details of upcoming activities on a whiteboard and hold the key to the office. The away teams were placed in a temporary location and were told that negotiations would take place in their opponents’ office.
Consistent with the sports team home advantage, the home team negotiators outperformed the away teams both as purchasers and sellers. This suggests that when it comes to being a persuasive negotiator your choice of setting can have an influence.
But why exactly? The studies were careful to pit equally skilled negotiators against each other. And, unlike a sports stadium where 40,000-odd supporters can sway a team’s performance — and influence a referee’s decisions — none of these factors played a role in these negotiations. Instead the research suggests that the setting of the negotiation may influence a negotiators confidence. Relative to a neutral location, negotiating in a familiar space boosts confidence and negotiating in an opponent’s territory reduces it.
Steve Martin is co-author of Yes! 50 Secrets from the Science of Persuasion.