Don’t Cheat Me/Martin Rosenfeld

Posted on August 25, 2012


Do people have similar reactions to being “taken” by the other side in all types of negotiations? According to Phyllis Pollack, whose article “Don’t Take Advantage of Me” appears at the answer is “No”. The most offensive “taking” is when the other party benefits by their misdeed. If that party has “taken” but has not benefited in turn, the reaction is less intense.

The summary of the experiments cited by Ms. Pollack leads to this conclusion:

In sum, people will seek revenge not simply and only for the sake of revenge but when they feel that the offender has become better off as a result of the offense. Obviously, this has implications in any negotiation or mediation. The more one party feels that the other was benefitted by the alleged misdeed, the more “revenge” she will seek, all in the name of “fairness.” People simply do not like to be snookered especially where the snookerer ends up better than the snookeree! So, in analyzing whether a proposal is “fair”, consider it from the perception or viewpoint of the alleged victim- does she feel that the alleged aggressor got the better end of the deal? If so, she will exact her revenge and “fairness” will cost a lot more.

How do you avoid this “taker”-“revenger” scenario? It is by having a balanced negotiation, or what in mediation we call “Win-Win”.  Why have bitterness and acrimony when you can strive for a balanced approach that allows for fairness to predominate. Mediation works best when the fairness factor is ever-present.