The Numbers Game: A New Study Says You Should Ask For Precise Amounts To Win In Salary Negotiations

June 10, 2013  |  

The old theory was that in negotiation sessions you should round up your numbers so you propose a simple figure for your salary. But now a new study from Columbia Business School says no, don’t give an estimated figure. Give the exact amount you are seeking.  You’ll look more intelligent and knowledgeable—and probably get the figure you desire.

“Precise numbers are these potent anchors,” Malia F. Mason, one of the study’s authors and an associate professor of management at Columbia Business School told Quartz. The study is about to be published in the Journal of  Experimental Social Psychology.

Mason’s theory was sparked while taking a taxi in Prague. The driver asked her for a 1,000 korunas fare—as if he just pulled the number out of thin air. And after paying another cabbie around 700 korunas instead, she started doing her research on negotiations.

What she found was that not only does giving the exact figure make you seem smarter and more informed about the true value of your product, services, and talents, but it also shows you are confident. And the more confident you appear in negotiations, the more likely you will achieve the outcome you want. You can use this approach to everything from selling an item on eBay to salary negotiations.

But do some research on the current going prices for whatever you’re offering, including current  salary rates. If you give a precise number that is too high, it could backfire.  By doing so you may be giving off signs you are inflexible or the other party may be skeptical about your expertise, the report’s authors point out. Instead, set a high but but slightly less extreme and precise number and you’ll do better in your negotiations.

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