How to Correct Implicit Bias During Negotiations

A number of factors go into a successful negotiation: research, establishing relationships, clear communication.

But veteran negotiators say a crucial element is often overlooked: awareness of implicit biases. What are your expectations and preferences? What about those of the other party? Are they judgemental or based on stereotypes? These hidden influences impact results significantly.

Dr. Beth Fisher-Yoshida knows about understanding biases. The Academic Director of the Negotiation and Conflict Resolution program at Columbia University is also founder of FYI Fisher Yoshida International, LLC, a firm that has partnered with the United Nations and Fortune 100 companies to improve performance through professional development.

At an event hosted by Women’s Insights on the Art of Negotiation and reported by Alexandra Dickinson of Forbes, Dr. Fisher-Yoshida explained her process for understanding and overcoming implicit biases.

1. Examine your own biases.

Self-awareness is your most powerful tool against implicit biases. Before the negotiation begins, ask yourself, “what assumptions am I making about the other party’s capabilities, beliefs, and desires?” Is there anything about their ethnicity, age, country of origin, or gender that causes you to feel a preference one way or another? Taking a bias test can also be helpful.

2. Examine the biases of the other party.

Take a moment to examine how the other person is treating you. This can include their verbal and nonverbal communication such as body language and facial expressions. What assumptions might they be making about your background or identity? How can you address them? Depending on the situation, you may want to address them directly, or you may want to simply act in a way that counters their expectations.

3. Slow down.

“It’s better to slow down the negotiation than react too quickly without giving ourselves a chance to process what’s going on,” Dr. Fisher-Yoshida said. If you need to pause and examine what biases may or may not be at play, leave the room to get water or use the bathroom. If it’s a phone negotiation, simply state that you need a day to make your decision.

Find out more about the Master of Science in Negotiation and Conflict Resolution at Columbia.