Language Style Matching, Engagement, and Impasse in Negotiations

Authors: ,


Humans and animals alike are known to mirror the behavior of both allies and opponents. However, existing models of behavior matching focus primarily on its prosocial functions. The current study explores whether both prosocial and adversarial sides of behavior matching can be found at different stages of an egoistic negotiation. In negotiations conducted over instant messenger, 64 dyads attempted to reach an agreement on four issues within 20 minutes while focusing solely on personal gain. We measured behavior matching with the language style matching (LSM) metric, which quantifies function word (e.g., pronouns, articles) similarity between partners. Although pairs with higher LSM throughout negotiations were more socially engaged, they were also less focused on the task and more likely to reach an impasse during the negotiation. Furthermore, early but not late style matching predicted more positive, socially attuned interactions. Implications for negotiation and mimicry research are discussed.

Keywords: decision making, negotiation, engagement, inguistic nquiry and ord ount, language style matching

How to Cite: Ireland, M. & Henderson, M. (2014) “Language Style Matching, Engagement, and Impasse in Negotiations”, Negotiation and Conflict Management Research. 7(1). doi: