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Small Talk Can Boost Business Deals for Men, Study Says

Women get fewer bonus points from chatting because it's expected of them, researcher suggests

THURSDAY, June 25, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Small talk can help men get better business deals, but the same may not be true for women, a new study says.

Among men, small talk before negotiations creates social bonds and increases the chances of good results, the researchers found.

"We saw a boost in positive negotiation outcomes for men when they engaged in small talk before the negotiation. Even a little small talk contributed to getting a better deal," Alexandra Mislin, a professor of management at American University, said in a university news release.

The reason small talk appears to benefit men more than women may be due to expected gender behaviors and stereotypes. Because women are viewed as more communicative, they're considered more likely to make small talk, and therefore earn no "social boost" for doing so before negotiations, according to Mislin.

Small talk is less expected from men, so they may get an added benefit from it, the researchers said.

One situation where small talk may prove useful for men is during salary negotiations with an employer.

Based on the study findings, "we suggest that people negotiating employment contracts, particularly men, think twice before skipping the small talk," Mislin said. "While both men and women may experience benefits from small talk when negotiating salary, men might walk away with a better deal."

The study was published recently in the journal Basic and Applied Social Psychology.

"Our findings reinforce the notion that men and women in the same situation, engaging in the same behavior, can experience different reactions because of different behavioral expectations associated with their gender," Mislin said.

"But our research also suggests that there may be areas where violating stereotypes is beneficial, as we see here for the men who engage in small talk," she added.

More information

Harvard University has more about negotiation skills and personality.

SOURCE: American University, news release, June 17, 2015
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