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See Inside May / June 2011

Far from Conflict

Physical Distance May Improve a Negotiating Climate

Buying a house or car? Perhaps you should try making the deal via e-mail. A January study in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology suggests nego­tiations are smoother when the parties are separated by distance. When undergraduates who nego­tiated the purchase of a motorcycle over Instant Messenger believed they were physically far apart (more than 15 miles), negotiations were easier and showed more compromise than when participants believed they were closer (a few feet). The experimenters explain that when people are farther apart, they consider the factors in a more abstract way, focusing on the main issues rather than getting hung up on less important points. So next time you have to work out a complex deal, the researchers say, it may be worthwhile to begin from a distance, such as when you are traveling.

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