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The Humor Quotient Newsletter

Vol. 2, No. 2, May  1996, Winona, MN 55987


Good Humor and Negotiation Success


[In October 1995, HQN reported on humor's effects on  negotiation success.  Humor  was divided between  Proactive (telling jokes) and  Reactive  Humor  (taking, kidding, laughing well, being good humored).  For American negotiators, significant differences exist between men's and women's reactive-humor effects on negotiation success. The following article presses the question cross-culturally: Does reactive humor affect Japanese and American negotiations differently?]


The Legislative Simulation (LS) was first devised as part of a Masters in Leadership seminar at Augsburg College, Minneapolis, MN.  The 30 Augsburg participants were  typically professionally experienced in negotiation.  The LS success at Augsburg led to its yearly inclusion in  an advanced Technical Writing course at Winona State University.  In the LS, a set group of fact documents guides groups of four or five students in presenting budgets of super-agencies to their group acting as a budget committee of a state legislature. The group then reconvenes as a budget committee to establish a highly restrictive, absolute budget among the super-agencies.  After the budget agreement has been reached, each participant completes a feedback form  identifying the two highest users of each of 21 potential negotiation  techniques.  Questions include,   "Who used the power of authority best?", "Who was best humored?", "Who was most serious?", "Who was harshest to your portfolio?"






The number of identifications as a high technique-user can then be compared to an objective, mathematically determined  negotiation success rank (NSR) from Rank I (best) to Rank V; (groups of four do not have a Rank III assigned).


The Japanese  Translation Model


In fall, 1994, David Everding took the Legislative Simulation to the Minnesota State University campus at Akita, Japan.  The LS had been translated by Japanese students attending WSU and had been field-tested on Japanese student groups at WSU.  Everding formed five additional negotiation groups at Akita for a total of 46 Japanese participants in all-Japanese negotiation groups.


Japanese Negotiation Blends Seriousness and Good Humor


Analysis of the data for 46 Japanese negotiators showed results heavily influenced by the combined use of seriousness and good humor.  The two determinants were combined in an additive index  of seriousness and good humor (SGHX).  NSR and SGHX had an extraordinarily high correlation with a p<.0004.  A one-point change in rank on a five-point SGHX scale produced a .92 point  change on a five-point  NSR scale.


Americans Not Affected by the Japanese Formula


American negotiation results do not show this correlation of SGHX to NSR success.  What little mathematical effect was noted was in the opposite direction from Japanese results.


Even when Americans were broken into male and female groups, SGHX was not shown to produce a success result.  When Japanese were divided into male and female groups, males' success was clearly more related to SGHX.  (See Figure 1 for comparative slopes.)



Fig. 1: Comparative Slopes NSR Success per SGHX Success by Nationality and Gender       


                                 A. Female         A. MALE         J. FEMALE         j. MALE


 NSR per SGHX                .059                     .112                      .686                  1.124



HQN Editor:  Paul Grawe, Department of English, Winona State University, Winona, MN 55987                         Tel:  (507) 457-5443;  E mail:  PGRAWE@VAX2.WINONA.MSUS.EDU







A Fuller  Japanese Success Formula


A further attempt was then made to round out a close-to-optimal strategy for Japanese based on the LS results.  Use of Facts had the highest simple correlation to NSR results for Japanese other than SGHX.  Use of Precedent had the best results of remaining determinants when joined with Use of Facts.  Acting Harshly Against was similarly the best next determinant combined with the first two.  And Persistence was the fourth highest.  Combining these four techniques with SGHX produces a six-factor Japanese Success Formula (JPN6).


General Applicability of JPN6


For all participants—120  American and 46 Japanese—JPN6 is correlated with NSR, negotiation success, with a very high confidence level (p<.0003).  However, there is a very clear progression from Japanese men (with a very high slope of correlation and confidence level) through Japanese women to badly trailing American women and finally to American men, for whom nothing approaching statistical significance can be stated.  (See Figure 2 for comparative slopes.)


    Fig. 2:  Comparative Slopes of JPN6 by Nationality and Gender


                                   A.MALE         A. FEMALE          J.FEMALE           J.MALE


   NSR per JPN6                  .258                    .366                    .8912                    .9571



Overall Significance of This Research


It has been recognized that accurate information concerning what different cultures grant negotiation success to, specifically what rhetorical techniques, can be valuable to both the public sector and the private sectors and, quite possibly, to international understanding and peace as well.


by David Everding and Paul Grawe

Winona State University






HQT in an Employment Setting


In February, 1996, the HQT was administered to the employees of a small company in Southeast Minnesota.  The company had been rapidly expanding, and the owner, having previously taken the HQT herself, felt that administration and discussion of the HQT could be a useful tool for team building.    


In all, ten employees, full- and part-time,  took the test, and the owner took it for a second time.  Counting ties for personality types as .5 for each type, the company turned out to have the following humor personality types:   3.0 Crusaders, .5 Advocates, 1.5 Bridgebuilders,  2.5  Consolers, 1.0  Reconcilers, and 2.5  Intellectuals.


The boss herself  (in both her first and second testing)  turned out to be an Intellectual (highest two scores are Word Play and Incongruity).  Interestingly, the company showed a higher proportion of Intellectuals (and, tautologically, a lower proportion of Bridgebuilders) than our database overall.  


We found it even more interesting, however, that the composite humor profile of the employees mirrored the profile of the boss.  That is, while the company had representatives of all six humor types, as a whole the firm without including the owner was Intellectual.  We also found that the Intellectual leaning was spread across age levels.  Testing resulted in the following joke scores:


Word Play   Incongruity   Gotcha   Sympathetic Pain


           Owner                        14             12                  10                    6


           Firm*                          10.8          11.3              10.4                  9.6


           Over 50                      10.8           12                 11.4                  7.8

           30's and 40's**            11.3          10.8                9.3                 10.8

           20's                            11.5          10.8                9.8                  10      


*not including the owner

**including the owner


The disproportion of intellectuals represents better than 90% confidence.  The results suggest possibilities for further research into humor-derived personality type and corporate ethos.


by Robin Jaeckle Grawe





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