In many complex negotiations, there are multiple issues on the table. For example, if you are hiring a new job candidate, you might be negotiating about the salary, bonus, vacation leave allowance, health benefits, job assignment, and so on. Chances are that there might be certain issues that you value less but the other party values more, and vice-versa.
For example, you might not care much about vacation days but really care about the health benefits, whereas the candidate might care a lot about vacation but not about benefits. In such circumstances, both parties can be made better off by exchanging each other’s priorities. You can give the candidate the vacation allowance that he or she wants, whereas the candidate can compromise on the benefits issue. This way, both parties can be happy because both get what they care more about.
Recent research shows that Asians are worse than Americans at this type of negotiations. A key requirement for exchanging issues of different priorities is to tell one’s negotiation partner which issue one cares about more and which issue less. Conveying this information can only help in a negotiation, it cannot hurt. However, Asians are hesitant about sharing this information, fearing that it would be used against them. As a consequence, they end up with sub-optimal outcomes as a group. Americans, who tend to share which issues they care about more and which issues they care about less, end up achieving more optimal outcomes as a group.
So the message for Asians is that in negotiations, its OK to tell the other party that you care more about health benefits than vacation days without giving any more details. It can only help identify integrative potential – opportunities for exchanging issues that the two parties value to different extents.
The message for Americans is that when negotiating with Asians, it would be more difficult to identify integrative potential. They should attempt to make the Asian counterparty trust them before beginning the negotiation to increase their chances sharing their priorities.