Eating a family-style meal may make you a better negotiator. Here’s why

I am not a sharer of food. Honestly, there is nothing scarier to me then when a friend says “Let’s get Tapas.” I want a large big plate all to myself whether I am hangry or not. However, this lack of wanting to literally share a plate of food with people may be why I am not the best negotiator.

According to new research from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business our eating style can influence our collaboration and cooperation skills in a major way so if you are all about eating family-style, then you are probably a good negotiator.

The study titled,  “Shared Plates, Shared Minds: Consuming from a Shared Plate Promotes Cooperation” forthcoming in Psychological Science, Chicago Booth Professor Ayelet Fishbach and Cornell University’s Kaitlin Woolley, wrote, “When people in a business negotiation share not just a meal but a plate, they collaborate better and reach deals faster.”

Negotiation chips

The study was conducted by asking participants who did not know each other to have chips and salsa with their partners. Half of the pairs received one bowl of chips and one bowl of salsa to share, while the others each had their own bowls.

Then the teams were given a negotiation scenario in which one person in the pair was (randomly) assigned to act as management and the other as a union representative. They were asked to come to a wage agreement and were allotted 22 rounds of negotiations.

An expensive union strike also came into play during the third round which was used to act as a catalyst for both sides to reach an agreement faster.

Guess which teams did better? Those who shared chips and salsa averaged out at 9 days (the rounds represented days)  to reach a deal while it was more like 13 days for the non-sharers on average. The researchers wrote the phenomenon of this “was unrelated to how two people in a negotiating team felt about each other.

Rather, what mattered was how well they coordinated their eating.” They found similar results when they tried the experiment with teams of people that were friends as well.

Even though technology allows for us to conduct meetings with teams spread out all over the world there is something about a team coming together for a meal that can really help them get to know each other and work more effectively.

“Basically, every meal that you’re eating alone is a missed opportunity to connect to someone,” says Fishbach. “And every meal that involves food sharing fully utilizes the opportunity to create that social bond.”