web analytics

Work Up a Sweat to Bargain Better


Perhaps we should go to bargain in gym in the future.

If better health is not a sufficient incent for you to take a brisk walk, maybe there is another one: it might get you a better deal.

New study from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology provides a twist on the adage “never let them see you sweat,” says Jared Chuhan, associate professor of organization studies at M.I.T.’s Sloan School of Management, and one of the co-authors of the study. “If you are sweating and your heart rate is high, it’s usually regarded as a sign of something going wrong, that you are too nervous, flustered or off-balance,” he explained. “Whereas we are showing that something could be very right.”

Professor Curhan and his co-workers found that when a person is negotiating while moving, for example, spacing while bargaining over job terms on the phone, he can get improved results. However, there is a rub, of course. The better outcomes are only seen from those who are confident heading into the bargain in the first place. Instead, if they are nervous, walking may actually hamper their performance.

This study, published in recent Psychological Science, involved two experiments. One of the experiments compared the experience of subjects who bargained to buy a car on the phone while walking briskly on a treadmill (their average heart rate was 117 beats per minute) against the experience of other participants who walked at a more modest pace (88 beats per minute). The second experiment made a comparison between the experiences of subject negotiating for job terms on a cellphone while taking a casual walk against the experiences of others who sat in a chair.

Conventional wisdom could suggest that those who dreaded negotiation showed even worse performance when they exerted themselves. More surprisingly, those who looked forward to negotiation displayed the opposite results: In the job-negotiation experiment, they performed better and felt better about their performances when walking. In the treadmill experiment, the confident negotiators felt their performances were better when their heart rates were elevated – even better than equally confident people who walked at a modest pace.

For decades, scientists have been working on the relationship between physical and mental states. Now it has a real-world application. In fact, it is very easy to confuse the two because broadly speaking, emotions consist of two factors: a physiological response and how one experiences and labels it.

Santa exercising

Work out more sweater, and I can buy even cheaper Christmas gifts.  


In another word, someone might call a racing heart and sweaty palms anxiety while some others may regard it as excitement. Recent study from Alison Wood Brooks, a scholar at the Harvard Business School, suggests that people perform better in a range of pursuits – singing, public speaking, math – if they take note of their physiological responses and re-label their feelings as excitement instead of anxiety.

Ms. Brooks noted that this research can apply to real negotiation. Her advice is for people to “reappraise” anxiety as excitement. She said, even by simply saying “I’m excited” can help you accomplish this. Earlier study proves that anxiety can be so debilitating that it leads to “making low first offers, exiting early and earning less profit.”

She said the new M.I.T. study showed a way to counter these forces.

“Get on the treadmill, raise your heart rate and appraise the feeling as excitement as opposed to anxiety – tell yourself ‘I’m excited,’” she said. “And then move forward and prosper.”

There is one thing remaining unclear from the study: how much physical exertion makes good sense in bargain. For now, “I would not suggest doing a marathon”, said Ashley Brown, the lead author of the study and a psychology researcher at Stanford.

Source:New York Times

Image source: shutterstock.com