Making small talk wins you the best business deals – especially if you're a man

Sarah Spickernell
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Being chatty can work wonders at the negotiating table, it turns out (Source: Getty)
Being chatty goes down a treat when trying to win business deals, and it's particularly helpful if you're a man.
A new study, published in the journal Basic and Applied Social Psychology, shows making small talk in the run up to a negotiation seriously increases men's chances of success. It also helps women, but less so.
"We saw a boost in positive negotiation outcomes for men when they engaged in small talk before the negotiation," explained Alexandra Mislin, the lead researcher. "Even a little small talk contributed to getting a better deal."
While both men and women may experience benefits from small talk when negotiating salary, men might walk away with a better deal.

Dealing with trust

For a deal to go ahead, both parties must believe that the other will not let them down, and being chatty helps achieve this.
But there are gender stereotypes at work, which give men an advantage – women are expected to be more communicative, so they are anticipated to make small talk. If they are chatty with their negotiator, it's unlikely to have much impact on the ultimate deal.
Because the same is not true for men, being very chatty is surprising and therefore works wonders in terms of boosting trust. "It's not as notable a behavior when a woman makes small talk. So she is not as likely to experience a social boost from the effort," Mislin said.
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.
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.

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