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Do you know why psychopaths and narcissists have it so tough when it comes to digital negotiations?

May 21, 2020

I was asked this question during a webinar with the Technical University of Munich (TUM). A study discovered that psychopaths and narcissists perform worse in digital negotiations than in physical meetings. I’m no psychiatrist, and I can offer no scientific explanation – but I can give an evaluation based on my own experience.

Germany, Austria and Switzerland are home to some 700’000 psychopaths, 50% of which live under the radar as non-criminal – or have never been caught! Their inflated sense of self-worth, ruthlessness and greater readiness to take risks means that psychopaths are often successful in business.

The number of narcissists is certainly much higher, and I’m in no doubt that you’ve already negotiated with both psychopaths and narcissists. Andthe one characteristic they both share? Charm! These negotiating partners are remarkably charming, highly engaging and have the ability to make you feel like you’re in great hands – they also leave you feeling drained and exhausted when negotiations are over.

Psychopathsand narcissists can use this attribute to full effect in face-to-face negotiations, but that effect comes to naught in digital negotiations – you’re literally left feeling that something is ‘not quite right’ with these people. And the more they try, the more alert and suspicious you become. If you stop giving positive feedback, the psychopath or narcissist takes it as an insult, turns away offended and comes away from the negotiation thinking it went badly.

Negotiating tips:

  • If you’re negotiating with psychopaths or narcissists, give them excessive amounts of positive feedback and praise them constantly
  • What feels embarrassing to you will not be seen as negative by your negotiating partner
  • If you happen to be a psychopath or narcissist, please avoid digital negotiations

Sources: Crossley, L., Woodworth, M., Blacka, P., & Hareb, R. (2016): The dark side of negotiation: Examining the outcomes of face-to-face andcomputer-mediated negotiations among dark personalities. In: Personality and Individual Differences, 2016(91): 47-51.Morse, L. & Cohen, T. (2019): Moral Character in Negotiation, In: Academy of Management Perspectives.

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