Hillary Anger Elfenbein
Washington University in St. Louis, Olin School of Business
October 20, 2014
The commonsense notion that personal characteristics influence how effectively we negotiate has presented researchers with a mystery: Throughout the decades, scholars have concluded there are few reliable findings to support it. This paper reviews existing research as well as new research in which my colleagues and I join a growing minority revisiting this nearly abandoned topic. The categories of individual differences previously studied include background characteristics, abilities, personality traits, motivations, and expectations and beliefs. Reviewing this work presents an optimistic conclusion: The strongest and most reliable predictors of negotiation performance are also the most open to personal change. Namely, positive expectations and comfort with negotiation consistently predict better performance. Another consistent finding is that abilities such as cognitive intelligence and creativity help for win-win agreements. Results suggest promise for a topic that is important to researchers, educators, organizations, and the public alike.