In business, it’s both customary and polite to engage in a few pleasantries before diving into negotiations.
The weather, what happened on the weekend, the traffic in the CBD – it’s the type of small talk which although boring, is necessary to grease the gears of a good business deal.
However, it seems men have more to gain than women when it comes to honing their chitchat skills. “Engaging in small talk enhanced perceptions of communality, liking and satisfaction with the relationship in men but not women,” the authors wrote. “Men benefited from using small talk by receiving more favourable final offers when they engaged in small talk than when they did not.”
The study findings, entitled “Should We Chit-Chat?” reportedly came as a surprise even to the researchers, with previous studies finding that small talk, regardless of gender, enhanced business negotiations.
“It isn’t as if women ought to shun small talk: nothing we found suggests that it does any harm, and maybe women just have to do it better than men. For men, the principal message of this study is clear: you’ve got more to gain from a small investment in chit-chat than you may realize,” report co-author, Professor Alexandra Mislin of American University said.
So why the gender variance then?
It comes down to differing stereotypes and the expectations that derive from them – in other words; people expect women to be chatty, and men not to be.
“As compared to women, men are described as less communal, and, thus, for example, as less communicative, sociable, or concerned about others… Because for men communality is not assumed, they may profit a great deal from showing communal behaviours.”