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By Steven G. Mehta

How people view the negotiation can seriously affect the results that you achieve.  My wife and I have very different views about negotiation.  I thrive on it; she on the other hand views it as a necessary process.  I love the swap meet and the art of negotiating at garage sales, she prefers to not attend the garage sale at all and simply go to the mall.  That, however, might be her preference on shopping and not on negotiation.  A new study, however, verifies that the way people percieve negotiation will affect the outcome.

A recent paper evaluated a variety of studies on attitudes towards negotiations.  The studies revealed that when people know that they are about to negotiate, they view the impending negotiation as either a threat or a challenge. The study found that people who viewed the negotiation as a challenge fared better than the people who viewed it as a threat.  Threat percievers experienced more stress from the negotiation, and as a result made worse deals.  Part of the reason that they made worse deals is that they were less willing to take aggressive stances.  Obviously, this paper was limited in qualification in financial terms and not non-economic terms.

This study confirms a basic and fundamental principle regarding improving in anything.  Practice makes perfect.  The more people will practice at a negotiation, the better they will feel about the specific negotiation.  Moreover, practicing in all different environments, including the swap meet and garage sales, will help negotiators learn how to make tough calls during the mediation.

Further, the more that you negotiate, the less stressed you will be and the more willing you will be to take risks that just might pay off.

Finally, war gaming your specific important negotiation is also important.  You can play out the specific negotiation and see how the reaction may be.  You can test out hardball tactics, or what certain concessions might likely obtain in return.   In my book, I have written about wargaming, and you can learn more about practicing and preparation.  See, 112 Ways to Succeed in Any Negotiation or Mediation.

Research Source:  K. O’Connor, J. Arnold, & A. Maurizio (2010) The prospect of negotiating: Stress, cognitive appraisal, and performance.  Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.


By Steven G. Mehta

I have for a long time been thinking about how to create a window in a windowless environment.  Perhaps I have seen too many science fiction movies where you can change the scene at will.  I even joked with my friend and told her that I could live by the beach with a HD videoscreen that will be mounted against my wall as a window that shows images of the ocean.

The reason for wanting to create such an environment is simple.  Everyone wants a window — including in mediation.  People enjoy the diversion of the window and often in long days the window gives people a soothing way out.

Well I just found a magnificent tool that allows you to create a window in ANY room.  Have a look.

The end result is awesome, but it does cost some major bucks, time, and effort, as well as some electronic know how.  But the time is coming soon where it will be totally mainstream and I will have my window in my windowless conference rooms.  Meanwhile, I must say, that I must go and I bid you to live long and prosper.

By Steven G. MehtaSteve Mehta

A recent study provides some serious evidence that Americans prefer to read articles that agree with the opinions they already hold.

Researchers found that people spent 36 percent more time reading articles that agreed with their point of view than they did reading text that challenged their opinions.  Even when they read articles contrary to their view, they went back to data that supported their original views.

“We found that people generally chose media messages that reinforced their own preexisting views,” said Silvia Knobloch-Westerwick, co-author of the study and associate professor of communication at Ohio State University.

“In general, they don’t want their views to be challenged by seriously

The results showed that participants clicked on an average of 1.9 articles that agreed with their views, and 1.4 articles that didn’t.  The participants had a 58 percent likelihood of picking an article that supported their viewpoint, versus 43 percent likelihood of choosing an article challenging their beliefs.

Participants were most likely to read only articles that were consistent with their views, the study showed.  Next most common was reading both views on an issue.  Very few people only clicked on articles that opposed their views.

According to the study, people who reported that they read news more frequently, on the other hand, were more likely to avoid opposing viewpoints.

“People have more media choices these days, and they can choose to only be exposed to messages that agree with their current beliefs,” Knobloch-Westerwick said.  “If you only pay attention to messages you agree with, that can make you more extreme in your viewpoints, because you never consider the other side,” she said.

This research has interesting implications for conflict resolution.  One specific thing that comes to mind is that it suggests that in conflict scenarios where people have entrenched beliefs as to the merits of their case, they are not inclined to listen to contrary views.  As the research suggests, although they may initially listen to the other side has to say, they may still resort back to their original beliefs and consciously look for evidence that supports their belief.

This principle is very closely connected to the concept of reactive devaluation, where a person devalues what the opposing side has to say about a topic.  These two concepts together can make a very difficult scenario to break through when trying to resolve the conflict.

Participants in conflict resolution need to be aware of these biases when trying to come to a mutually agreeable resolution.

One way to address these biases is to first listen to the other side’s views without attack.  This enables you to gain respect and to show that you respect their opinion.

In addition, if you are providing information that is contrary to the other side’s belief, try to provide the bad news after you have given the good news about their case.  For example, your argument about the Causation is very good.  However, there could be problems with Negligence.  This method will allow you to gain credibility by accepting their initial position, and then as a proponent of that position presenting a problem.

Research Source:

Americans Choose Media Messages That Agree With Their Views. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 25, 2009, from


Steve MehtaBy StevenG. Mehta


A city in Arizona is reintroducing a mediation program to help people resolve neighbor to neighbor disputes. In particular, the city of Scottsdale, Arizona is primarily introducing this program to assist neighbors resolve their barking dog problems.

In most cities, the police or animal control are called to handle a problem that neighbors should be able to resolve among themselves. The problem is, however, that neighbors just don’t know how to talk to their neighbors.  Many times, the neighbor with the dog doesn’t know it’s an issue.  Another problem associated with the inability of neighbors to speak with each other about difficult issues is that the dispute will escalate — often into full-blown lawsuits.

The reason Scottsdale is reintroducing its mediation program for neighborhood disputes is because mediation works.  According to the city of Scottsdale, approximately 70% of mediations that took place involved barking dogs.  In fact, Joy Racine, the coordinator of the city’s mediation program explained that “when [this program] did go away, we did realize how much it was missed within the city.” “We realized it was definitely a program that benefited the citizens in Scottsdale.”


Most cities, however, do not have mediation program specifically designed for neighborhood disputes.  Common disputes amongst neighbors include the following:

·         barking dogs

·         view issues

·         excessive noise

·         encroachments or trespasses on property (such as trees, bushes, and foliage)

·         privacy issues

Mediation can assist in all of these types of disputes.  Mediation helps the parties to be able have a conversation in a safe environment. Further, mediation assists each of the neighbors to listen to the other neighbor.  You would be surprised at how difficult it is for people to really listen to someone else during a dispute.

In one case I mediated, two neighbors that lived on different streets shared a common fence in both of their backyards.  One neighbor was higher than the other and was able to look down into the other neighbor’s yard. The parties ended up in a significant lawsuit costing thousands of dollars because both wanted their privacy and the lower property’s neighbor erected a fence that the other neighbor considered to be “hideous” and blocking his view. The reason that the lower neighbor created the fence was because she was concerned that other people could look down into her yard when her teenage daughter and her friends were using the pool.   The problem was that nobody told each other what their needs were and their real concerns. This case was resolved short of trial because the parties were able to mediate the case and resolve their differences.

The following techniques can be used to assist in neighborhood disputes:

 Try to open a dialogue with your neighbor regarding your concerns.

  1. When expressing your concerns use “I” phrases instead of “you” statements. For example, “I am concerned about my daughter’s privacy when she’s using the pool.”
  2. Ask questions about how you and your neighbor can both try to work together to resolve the problem.
  3. Ask your neighbor if your neighbor has any concerns.
  4. Offer to help your neighbor with a common problem; or even a problem that is unique to your neighbor. This might help you to get on the good side of your neighbor.
  5. If your neighbor won’t, or can’t, speak with you, write a friendly note and then give it some time before you follow up.
  6. Give your neighbor a small gift such as some chocolates for a special occasion such as a holiday.  Remember, good neighborhood gifts make good neighbors. 
  7. Do not escalate the situation by threatening to file a lawsuit.
  8. When communicating with your neighbor, make sure that you listen actively. This means you must focus on listening to what your neighbor has to say and not on figuring out how you want to respond to what she has to say.
  9. Try to rephrase what your neighbor says in your own words.

Using these techniques, there’s a good chance that you’ll be able to avoid getting into a lawsuit over a neighborhood dispute. However, if you feel that the problem is escalating, consider mediation to provide a safe environment for you and your neighbor to discuss these issues.

Steve’s Book

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