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Words and Actions

Jun 11, 2021

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In the introduction to this episode on negotiations, we mention the haggling scene in the Monty Python film Life of Brian (1979). Treat yourself:

On a more serious note, we mention this academic definition of negotiations: 

Roloff, M.E., & Jordan, J.M. (1992). Achieving negotiation goals: the “fruits and foibles” of planning ahead. In L.L. Putnam and M.E. Roloff (eds)  Communication and Negotiation. Newbury Park: Sage, pp. 21-45. 

A popular book on the subject is 

Fisher, R., Ury, W., & Patton, B. (2012). Getting to Yes: Negotiating an agreement without giving in. 3rd ed. London Random House. 

If you would like to see a nice collection of metaphors in different types in negotiation, have a look at 

Smith, T. H. (2005). Metaphors for navigating negotiations. Negotiation Journal, 21(3), 343-364. [See what the author did there?]

More on non-violent communication can be found at Erika and Veronika have given an account of who ‘we’ can refer to in this paper: 

Darics, E., & Koller, V. (2019). Social actors ‘to go’: An analytical toolkit to explore agency in business discourse and communication. Business and Professional Communication Quarterly, 82(2), 214-238. 

Erika also mentions a study that shows just how important language use, including use of pronouns, is in negotiations:

Neu, J., & Graham, J. L. (1995). An analysis of language use in negotiations: The role of context and content. In K. Ehlich and J. Wagner (eds) The Discourse of Business Negotiation. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter, pp. 243-272.

We close the first part of the episode with another film reference, The Wolf of Wall Street (2013). You can watch the scene with the Swiss bankers at 

We conduct the first of two interviews for this episode with Judith Large, a professional negotiator and academic. Her experience of post-war Sri Lanka is captured in 

Large, J. (2016). Pushback: Sri Lanka’s dance with global governance. London: Zed Books. 

Different accounts of the peace negotiations in Indonesia, including Judith’s, are collected in this 2008 publication:

Between interviews, we talk about different strategies used by negotiators to manipulate others into agreement, not necessarily for our listeners to apply them but to become aware of them and, where appropriate, counter them. We discuss “salami slicing”, “lowballing” and “disrupt and reframe”; for the last one, see

Davis, B. P., & E.S. Knowles (1999). A disrupt-then-reframe technique of social influence. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 76(2), 192-199.

Other than that, the following two strategies are often mentioned:

Foot in the Door: The negotiator starts with a small request before gradually increasing their demands. Doing so increases the likelihood that a respondent will agree to the later request. This strategy is based on the principle of compliance: 

Freedman, J.L., & S.C. Fraser (1966). Compliance without pressure: The foot-in-the-door technique. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 4(2), 195-202. 

The authors found that if an initial request to put up a small signpost outside one’s home (‘Drive safely’) was followed by the request to put up a much larger sign, 55% of respondents would comply, compared with 20% compliance if asked for the larger sign straightaway. 

Door in the Face: The negotiator makes a large request that the respondent will most likely turn down. This request is followed by a second, more reasonable request. Studies show that the second request is more frequently complied with than if that same, smaller request is made in isolation:

Cialdini, R.B., Vincent, J.E., Lewis, S.K., Catalan, J., Wheeler, D., & B.L. Darby (1975). Reciprocal concessions procedure for inducing compliance: The door-in-the-face technique. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 31(2), 206-215. 

The authors’ example is a request to be a regular blood donor vs the request to donate blood only once. When exposed to both requests, 50% of subjects complied with the second request while a mere 32% complied when they were only presented with the second, smaller request. 

Parents and carers may be interested in this application of the two techniques described above:  

Chan, A.C., & T.K. Au (2011). Getting children to do more academic work: Foot-in-the-door versus door-in-the-face. Teaching and Teacher Education, 27(6), 982-985
[Spoiler: Door-in-the-face works best.]

Across studies though, both are equally effective: 

Pascual, A., & N. Guéguen, N. (2005). Foot-in-the-door and door-in-the-face: A comparative meta-analytic study. Psychological Reports, 96(1), 122-128. 

Our own meta-analysis is based on a clip of us preparing this episode and having a negotiation ourselves. You can hear us reach agreement here: By analysing our own talk during preparation, we take our listeners to the backstage of Words & Actions. You can watch a bite-sized introduction to sociologist Erving Goffman’s notion of frontstage and backstage communication here (narrated by Stephen Fry, no less!):​ 

Finally, at two points in the episode we mention zero-sum thinking, a notion from psychology that is often applied in economics and consumer behaviour research. A recent article is 

Johnson, S., Zhang, J., & F. Keil (2018). Psychological underpinnings of zero-sum thinking. Available at  

Another topic that kept popping up throughout was translation and multilingualism. We will address it in our next episode – see you for that!