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Smells a Bit Fishy to Me!

Alan Smith

The actress Goldie Hawn declared this week that her long-term relationship (they have so far not married) to Kurt Russell is based on the fact that they love the smell of each other. She claims it is the basis of their desire to be together.

I know, I know, but before you dismiss it as another freakie deakie Hollywood attempt to create a bit of noise about nothing, think about it.

The Smell Test

A famous so called T-shirt study conducted in the 90's asked a group of volunteers to continuously wear a bland white T-shirt for 3 days to capture as much of their natural odor as possible. Another group were then given the shirts to smell and asked to rank (deliberate choice of word) the attractiveness of the owner of the garment. Note for clarity the tests were totally blind.

Conclusive evidence highlighted that the attractiveness of the scent was utterly dependent on the two individuals' MHC (major histocompatibility locus) genes. The evidence suggests that people preferred the smell of others with diametrically opposed genes. Evolution has somehow provided humans with a transmitter and receiver for genetic information that has influence over mate choice.

And all this even before the first date!

And your point is?

Glad you asked. I guess that for me as a negotiating skills developer I am fascinated by what it is that makes some people more effective as a negotiator. At the core the 'good' negotiator has an appropriate understanding of what is going on in the apparently chaotic negotiation process and has a broad skill portfolio to navigate that process.

Clearly this is one major part of the picture. What the above mentioned 'smell' experiment and lots of other consciousness and behavioral theories show is that we are often influenced by factors beyond the obvious. Recognise that you are, and that is a start to being in greater control of your behaviour.

The Thomas Kilman measure of conflict mode is one of many models that helps individuals recognise how they tend to react when put under pressure in stressful situations. Some tend to get competitive, others may capitulate, and some will run away. Reading yourself and your co-negotiators can help you to direct your skills in a way that most effectively reaches your organisations objectives.

I am not suggesting that the other side can smell your fear or state of mind, but I am certain that if you are ill prepared or unsure there may be 'tells' that the other side pick up and may use against you.

Negotiations at their source are conducted with what psychologists call 'messy variables', you and me.

The good thing is that messy doesn't have to be smelly.

Alan Smith

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