The Sense of Entitlement/Martin Rosenfeld, JD

Posted on January 27, 2018


Katie Shonk wrote a piece for the Program on Negotiation (Harvard University) entitled “In business Negotiations, Eat Before You Negotiate”. Ms. Shonk points out that students who weer part of a study felt greater entitlement when they weer hungry than when they were well-fed. The reason for this attitude seemed to be based on the fact that people, when hungry, focus on their own needs. They cannot see the other person’s point of view; they are simply too self-centered to do so. The focus on one’s own needs, to the exclusion of the needs of others, leads to a sense of entitlement.

While it is admirable for a mediator to provide e.g. lunch for the parties involved in a lengthy mediation, this is not a necessary take-away. What the study cited by Ms. Shonk teaches us is the following:

*A mediation or negotiation is often helped or hindered by psychological needs. It is beneficial when these needs are able to be expressed by the parties.

The ability to focus on the needs of another party is a skill that can be enhanced and/or learned by proper intervention. In the instant case, a simple question in the opening statement might involve asking if the parties have had time for a meal or a snack. In other situations, a proper question might be to inquire if the parties have had a chance to speak about their impasse. The possibilities are many. Even a question such as “Is there anything that can be done to make Win-Win a greater possibility?” might lead to productive results.

*A mediator or negotiator is a person who has the ability to make people feel more comfortable and/or cared for. Explore how you might be able to make this a reality.