How to Make the Other Side Play Fair

by Max H. Bazerman and Daniel Kahneman

PLEASE ANSWER TWO quick questions:

  1. When negotiating, do you want the other side to be reasonable?
  2. Is it a good idea to be reasonable in negotiations?

Everyone we ask says yes to the first question, but answers diverge in response to the second. Academics lean toward yes, but businesspeople and lawyers often hesitate. In legal disputes, contested insurance claims, and similarly adversarial negotiations, they point out, the other party is likely to open with an inflated claim or a lowball offer. If the other side’s position is unreasonable, these practitioners suggest, it makes little sense to be reasonable yourself.

Suppose a customer claims that a problem with a product ...

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