People like to do business with people they like. And that’s why sociability usually is a career asset.
An academic study, presented at the current Academy of Management’s annual meeting in Philadelphia, confirmed the importance of “small talk” — especially for men in business negotiations.
In a difference that was only conjectured, an experiment found no advantage for women who chatted about restaurants and sports before beginning a business negotiation. But the likeability factor and deal result soared for men who had the same conversations in the same scripted deal.
The experiment, by researchers from American University and two German universities, also asked participants to rate the negotiators’ likeability.
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The results: Women who engaged in small talk negotiated an average deal worth $10,090, compared with a statistically insignificant $10,195 for women who jumped straight into negotiations. Men who chatted first averaged a deal worth $10,872 — far better than the $10,243 for men who immediately got down to business.
Researchers said nothing in their research suggested that women should shun small talk. Rather, their findings suggested that chitchat produced more benefits for men.
“Because for men communality is not assumed, they may profit a great deal from showing communal behaviors,” the report said.
In other words, society may assume women are naturally better at being communicative and sociable, so they gain no appreciable benefit from small talk to gain rapport in business dealings. Conversely, chatting could reinforce negative stereotypes of women as lacking business gravitas.
This was only one study, and it’s important to note that business-behavior experiments typically find value in sociability for both sexes. Pleasantries are rarely wrong.