Attitude, smiling, and happiness in negotiations

Smiling team members smiling and two shaking hands with a successful negotiation

Have you ever thought of how helpful it is to simply smile in a negotiation? Do you know how powerful this can be? This commentary focuses on the implications of your own attitude in a negotiation, explores the impact of smiling, and ends with how to simply make your life happier with potential positive impacts in your own negotiations. The applications are at work and in life. Personally, I have found these helpful and that is why I wanted to share this with you too.




Does attitude matter in negotiations? In studies conducted by researchers in academic settings as published by the Program on Negotiations at the Harvard Law School they have found the following:

“The researchers examined the outcomes achieved by the study of participants who placed themselves in one of the two categories. When talks had integrative potential (also called a win-win situation), participants who viewed negotiation as a challenge were better at identifying and capturing opportunities to expand the pie than were those who viewed it as a threat. But in purely distributive (win-lose) negotiations, no significant difference in outcomes existed between the ‘threat’ and ‘challenge’ groups.”

That is to say if the negotiation is potentially a win-win type negotiation and you have an attitude of looking at the negotiation as an opportunity and challenge results are better. However, in adversarial negotiations it did not matter. Ok, in adversarial situations it doesn’t seem to matter. Does that mean it doesn’t matter in other applications at work and in life? From an academic perspective there is no evidence that it matters. Let’s move onto the next area. That is smiling. That’s right smiling. You would be surprised what the impacts can be of smiling. Read on.


About a month ago I shared this article on LinkedIn entitled “Neuroscience Says Doing This 1 Thing Makes You Just as Happy as Eating 2,000 Chocolate Bars”. The article also says this one thing gives you the same neurological result as receiving $25,000. What is it? A smile. Seriously smiling has a very strong neurological impact on yourself and on others. It also has an impact on longevity with those that smile more. Those that smiled more from one study lived an average of 7 years longer. Think about that and how often you smile every day. Perhaps you need to lighten up some or spend more time with children. Why? Read on.

“Want to know where you stack up when it comes to smiling? Know this: under 14% of us smile fewer than 5 times a day (you probably don't want to be in that group). Over 30% of us smile over 20 times a day. And there's one population that absolutely dominates in the smile game, clocking in at as many as 400 smiles a day: children. “

Some other key points from this article:

“Finally, research demonstrates that when we smile, we look better to others. Not only are we perceived as more likable and courteous, but those who benefit from our sunny grins actually see us as more competent (something to keep in mind while giving presentations or interacting in the office).”

Having posted this article on LinkedIn about a month , nearly 700 viewed the post, 16 liked it and 13 provided comments. Personally, my wife wants to go with the 2,000 chocolate bars. Others thought to take the $25,000 and buy 25,000 chocolate bars. At any rate smiling matters. What about happiness?


Having researched this topic before the blog post “This is how to be happy at work and life” offers you five concrete actions to take on your part. These are based on research by neuroscientists as published by the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California at Berkeley and the course on Happiness offered by Yale University. By the way, Yale offers the course for free. What are the concrete steps?

  1. Practice gratitude for five minutes every day. For example, you could do this while in front of the mirror while preparing for your day or while commuting. Five minutes of thinking what you are grateful for can impact you positively for up to 8 hours.
  2. Label negative feelings by keeping a journal or by opening a Word Document on your computer and jotting down your thoughts and saving it to a junk folder. If you received a negative email rather than respond right away with a terse response consider writing up your response with how you are feeling in that Word Document. Then you could retrieve it the next day. When you retrieve it, you can either save it, delete it, edit it and save it, or edit and respond appropriately.
  3. Make the decision good enough. That means don’t be a perfectionist. Do the best you can with what you have. Realize this and then let it go. Don’t blame yourself or others.
  4. Have appropriate touch with others. With COVID-19 that is hard now. Still, who can you touch at home with loved ones, or with a pet? It is important to have appropriate touch with others. When we return to work physically with others make good use of that handshake and/or fist bump. In the meantime, hug those you love when you can.
  5. Practice mindfulness for at least 10 minutes a day with meditation, prayer, reflection, or yoga. Studies have shown that in 21 days you can lower your blood pressure, be calmer at work and life, and be more focused when faced with difficult decisions. You will also be more at peace professionally and personally.

So, what are important take aways from these three pieces of information for negotiations?


Action Items


Academic studies point out that if you enter a negotiation with an attitude that this is an opportunity to make things better for both parties this can have a positive impact. Perhaps starting a negotiation with an ice breaker like

“What is one thing that has happened to you positively in the last 30 days.”

with participants each sharing something, can lighten the tenseness and generate some smiles. This simple act may allow others to see themselves and the other party as something other than adversaries in a negotiation. You and the other party may begin to see each other as authentic people trying to work together to address some common interests.

To prepare for a negotiation, understand the five elements presented above associated with happiness well before any negotiation. Don’t you want to go into a negotiation feeling calmer, confident, and competent? By practicing gratefulness, labeling negative feelings, making decisions good enough, appropriate touch, and practicing mindfulness, well ahead of time you can feel much happier. The time to start this program is now. Three weeks from now assess how you feel and how you are doing. This may very well help you in that next negotiation.




By looking at negotiations in more of a positive light and smiling more often you may just lighten up a bit. Apply a positive icebreaker at the start of a negotiation. Practicing the five elements related to happiness, maybe, just maybe you will have a better outcome in your negotiations. If not, hopefully you will feel better going into a negotiation and possibly you will have better outcomes on the other side too. At least you will feel better. What the heck, what you got to lose? Give these ideas a chance and see what happens. Personally, I have had success with these. That is why I wanted to share these with you too. Good luck.

About the author

Mike is a mediator, a professional speaker, and an author. You may contact Mike directly at and at (651) 633-5311. Mike has written 12 books including his latest book, The Collaboration Effect: Overcoming Your Conflicts, and The Servant Manager, Business Valuations and the IRS, and Peaceful Resolutions that you may find helpful. [Michael Gregory, ASA, CVA, NSA, MBA, Qualified Mediator with the Minnesota Supreme Court]

About the author

Mike Gregory is a professional speaker, an author, and a mediator. You may contact Mike directly at and at (651) 633-5311. Mike has written 12 books (and co-authored two others) including his latest book, The Collaboration Effect: Overcoming Your Conflicts, and The Servant Manager, Business Valuations and the IRS, and Peaceful Resolutions that you may find helpful. [Michael Gregory, ASA, CVA, MBA, Qualified Mediator with the Minnesota Supreme Court]