A new study from Columbia Business School shows that, in general–at least during negotiations–most people don’t have a clue how they come across. (The study didn’t go into gender splits, that could have be extra interesting.)

The setup was pretty simple. Participants were paired up and asked to negotiate a basic licensing agreement, then rate if their partner was overly pushy, under aggressive, or just right. They were also asked to rate their own behavior. The results proved that interwebs axiom

you’re doing it wrong

and that people have a long way to go towards understanding perceptions–their own and others:

  • 57 percent of people actually seen by their counterpart as under–assertive thought they had come across as appropriately assertive or even over–assertive.
  • 56 percent of people actually seen by their counterpart as over–assertive thought they had come across as appropriately assertive or even under–assertive.
  • Together, these results suggest that people seen as getting assertiveness wrong in the eyes of others had about a coin–flip’s chance of recognizing how they were seen

Additionally,

many people getting assertiveness right [per their partners in the experiment] mistakenly thought they were seen as pushing too hard…These people believed that they came across as being too assertive—or had crossed a line—during negotiations, when in fact their counterparts saw them as being appropriately assertive. Those who mistakenly thought they had over–asserted themselves were more likely to try to repair relationships with their partners, sometimes agreeing to a less valuable subsequent deal just to smooth things over.

I guess you have known what you’ll stand for and take, and if it means being “tough” to get it, maybe the person with whom you’re negotiating with will actually think you are being cool, rather than a jerk…