Negotiating a deal? Clues on your opponent's psyche

March 10, 2011: 11:16 AM ET

If you want to know how someone is likely to react to a perceived slight, sneak a peek at his or her right hand.

By Anne Fisher, contributor

Let's say you recently turned someone down for a raise or a promotion, and he has now retaliated -- for instance, by quitting in a huff and taking a valuable client list with him.

According to a new study of the role of testosterone in business negotiations, you might have foreseen that, and maybe even prevented it, if you had checked out his right hand before making (or refusing) an offer. Specifically, if someone's ring finger and his index finger are the same length, look out.

Little or no difference in the size of those digits is an indicator of high prenatal testosterone, which tells you two things. First, this is a person who is preoccupied with preserving his status and saving face. Unless you handle his ego with kid gloves, he will be quick to take offense.

And second, if you cross him, he will get even.

That's the conclusion of an intriguing study called "Lex talionis: Testosterone and the law of retaliation," to be published in a forthcoming issue of the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. More

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