The Curse of Knowledge Is A Barrier To Negotiations

Posted By on June 10th

The book, Made to Stick, makes the point that the biggest roadblock to getting your message across to others…


is “The Curse of Knowledge”. The Curse of Knowledge is when the sender of the communication assumes that the receiver understands the message simply because the sender understands it.

The Curse of Knowledge is a barrier to successful negotiations because the sender falsely believes that the sender’s signals are being received correctly by the other party.

When the sender questions whether the receiver will care about the message, the sender will answer “yes” because the sender cares about the message. Made to Stick gives an example of the Murray Dranoff Duo Piano people, who say that they “exist to protect, preserve, and promote the music of the duo piano.” They’re shocked that they’re statement doesn’t arouse the same passion in others.

At some point in a negotiation, you will probably be tempted to send a subtle message. I’ve had clients who want to gain the “upper-hand” by holding the negotiation discussions in my office (“the home field advantage”) or by making the first low-ball offer. It’s an attempt to subtly tell the other side that “we’re in charge”.

Sometimes we adjust our settlement proposal to show that we are willing to “meet them halfway” in the negotiation.

These communications are subtle, however, and Made to Stick shows that more times than not, subtlety is lost in communications. The message is loud and clear in your head, and as a result, you falsely believe that your negotiation partner is hearing the message too.

You get frustrated that your negotiation partner can’t see the obvious. Meanwhile, your message is misunderstood, if it’s even perceived. You now have a breakdown in your communications and potential termination of your negotiations.

To learn more, buy Made to Stick here.

About the author

Keith Grossman helps individuals and businesses negotiate and manage conflict more comfortably. Keith is a Collaborative Attorney, a Family and Circuit Civil mediator certified by the Supreme Court of Florida, an Arbitrator qualified by the Florida Supreme Court, and an educator. Keith frequently lectures and facilitates training programs, works with individuals one-on-one, and writes articles on conflict management and negotiation topics. His e-workbooks, “What Is A Peace Chest?” and “How Do You Build A Peace Chest?“ are now available on Kindle.


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