We often think of negotiation as a process that goes on between two people: there’s our side of the table and their side of the table, both trying to reach some solution that accomplishes their interests. Many negotiators focus on those two sides, but forget the table in between them. That’s a mistake, because even something as mundane as the physical environment for a negotiation can make a real difference in how the parties interact.
This may seem counterintuitive to you, especially if you’re an experienced negotiator focused on the bottom line. But experts in human behavior have studied the effect, called “priming,” extensively. We discussed some of the research, dealing with the influence of media on children, in an earlier piece. And in 2004, researchers from Stanford and Yale published an article detailing several practical experiments they ran to test the effectiveness of priming in a business environment.