Do you want an edge in negotiations? FYI, some small talk just before a negotiation provides a boost for men but not women, according to academic researchers.

Seriously? Yes, if you’re a male, a little chit-chat before the serious discussion helps you make a better impression for better results. But it’s just the opposite if you’re a female.

Men benefit 6 percent more than women.

“Should we Chit-chat?” is the title of a 2014 study for the Academy of Management (

The authors explain:

“…engaging in small talk enhanced perceptions of communality, liking, and satisfaction with the relationship in men but not women. Men benefited from using small talk by receiving more favorable final offers when they engaged in small talk than when they did not.”

Researchers included Alexandra A. Mislin of American University, Brooke A. Shaughnessy of Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität, and Tanja Hentschel and Claudia Peus of Technische Universität München.

Previously, it was widely thought such chit-chat was a necessary fundamental for negotiators of both genders.

It was thought to be helpful in creating “benevolence, trustworthiness, and cooperativeness and of minimizing the likelihood of an impasse,” suggested the authors.

“It isn’t as if women ought to shun small talk: nothing we found suggests that it does any harm, and maybe women just have to do it better than men,” observed Professor Mislin. For men, the principal message of this study is clear: you’ve got more to gain from a small investment in chit-chat than you may realize.”

Less Communal

“As compared to women, men are described as less communal, and, thus, for example, as less communicative, sociable, or concerned about others… Because for men communality is not assumed, they may profit a great deal from showing communal behaviors,” wrote the authors.

“…research shows that too much communal behavior from men — for example, when taking on the role of a stay-at-home parent — may lead to social penalties. Men appear to receive a bonus for smaller communal behaviors, while they are penalized for more extensive [ones]. In negotiation contexts, small talk would be perceived as a small communal behavior, not expected from men and therefore yielding tangible benefits,” added the researchers.

While women are expected to be good in such soft skills, refraining from small talk doesn’t hurt them.

“In sum, as long as women don’t negotiate too forcefully or rigidly, [they] will not have broken gender norms by omitting small talk…Therefore, evaluations of women’s communality may not differ whether they actually show communal behavior (i.e, small talk) or not,” explained the authors.

Bottom line

“The bottom line for male negotiators is that small talk not only makes a good impression but can result in a nice cash bonus,” commented Professor Shaugnessy. “For women, negotiations will always be socially risky, and it appears they need to find other ways than small talk to cultivate a positive regard in their counterparts.”

The Academy of Management was founded in 1936. It’s an excellent organization and is the world’s-largest devoted to management research and teaching. It has about 19,200 members in 118 countries. (Disclosure: Formerly, I was a member).

From the Coach’s Corner, here’s more on the art of persuasion:

7 Steps to Become Great at Thinking on Your Feet — Have you ever been at a loss for words? For example, when asked a question, have you been tongue tied in a sales presentation, while speaking at an event, in negotiations, during an interview or a staff meeting? Getting tongue-tied is not a fun experience.

Thinking about a Strategic Partnership? 4 Keys to Succeed — If you’re looking for market supremacy and higher sales, and most businesses are, strategic partnerships are beneficial. But make sure they work. Here’s how.

Hiring? 4 Pointers on Negotiating Wages with Job Applicants — Some employers have had difficulty in successfully extending job offers to applicants, especially Millennial professionals. It’s not uncommon to interview applicants who aren’t shy in negotiations with their inflated egos and salary expectations. Of course, that wasn’t the case in the Great Recession.

Partnerships — 7 Steps to Avoid Fights over Money — When a business has cash flow issues, a key issue that comes up every day is money. As a partnership, you have a shared responsibility to discuss issues on principles without arguing in an ad hominem manner. Your company is doomed if you ever attack your partner’s character or sarcastically belittle the person’s traits.

“If you are planning on doing business with someone again, don’t be too tough in the negotiations. If you’re going to skin a cat, don’t keep it as a house cat.”

– Marvin Levin


Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is also a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry.