You will notice a new category to this blawg, negotiation. Prior mediation posts have contained negotiation tips, but they are really two separate animals and each deserves attention. Victoria Pynchon's post, Anchoring Redux, jokingly referring to "Kumbya University" brought this in focus for me.
"Although we are often told that only "reasonable" first offers influence negotiation outcomes, I am unaware of the existence of any research to support this dictum. Unfortunately, I suspect that the "reasonable first offer" theory is from the Graduate School of Feeling Good About Ourselves at Kumbya University."
Victoria summarizes Adam Galinsky's studies. He is a Kellogg Graduate School of Management Professor. His conclusion is that people aren't aggressive enough in their opening offers.
"MAKING THE FIRST OFFER
The author found that when a seller makes the first offer, the final settlement price tends to be higher than when the buyer makes the first offer. The amount of the first offer affects the outcome, with more aggressive or extreme first offers leading to a better outcome for the person who made the offer. Initial offers better predict final settlement prices than subsequent concessionary behaviors do.
HOW EXTREME CAN IT BE?
The author's research suggests that first offers should be quite aggressive but not absurdly so. The fear that an aggressive first offer will scare or annoy the other side and perhaps even cause him to walk away in disgust is typically exaggerated. Most negotiators make first offers that are not aggressive enough.
A nonaggressive first offer requires small concessions or a decision to stand by the original demand. Because one of the best predictors of negotiator satisfaction is the number and size of the concessions extracted from an opponent, aggressive first offers give your opponent the satisfaction of extracting significant concessions from you. In that case, you'll not only get a better outcome, but you'll also increase the other side's satisfaction.
For the full text of this article, see "When to Make the First Offer in Negotiations" from Negotiation, July 2004, by Adam D. Galinsky , an assistant professor at Northwestern University's Kellogg Graduate School of Management, in Evanston, Illinois."
Transition now to divorce negotiation. As an advocate you want a better outcome for your client, and increasing the other side's satisfaction has to be a huge plus, especially where the parties have the ongoing responsibility to raise children. Solid negotiation skills benefit the process, but you won't learn those at Kumbya U. Some attorneys, particularly some less experienced. are eager to avoid the blood and guts of not only litigation, but of difficult negotiation. No can do. In the family law arena we see little negotiation CLE. We must step out of our element to learn how to negotiate and keep up with advances in negotiation theory and techniques.