Do emotions belong in a negotiation? This is a question I hear every time I help my clients prepare a negotiation strategy. Many people think that you need to leave your emotions at the door when negotiating, but unless you are a Vulcan or a robot, you are going to experience emotions while preparing for and during a negotiation.
In a win-win negotiation, you want to get the best possible deal for yourself while you also work to make the other party as satisfied as possible. The emotions displayed during a win-win negotiation can teach you what the other party really wants. They can also influence how you and the other negotiator interact.
“Emotions constitute a deliberate behavioral strategy that can be used by negotiators in support of strategic action,” said Shirli Kopelman, professor of management and organizations at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business. Kopelman was summarizing a study that demonstrated a correlation between positive emotions and rewarding business deals.
“Negotiators who strategically display positive rather than negative emotions are more likely to preserve valuable business relationships, gain concessions and persuade opposing parties to accept their offers, and thus, more frequently close deals,” said Kopelman.
Positive emotions can energize a negotiation. When I refer to positive emotions, I know you might picture an annoyingly perky cheerleader. This is not my intention. Think neutral to positive. You want the emotions to be positive but appropriate for the situation. Remember emotions are contagious.
Unfortunately, negative emotions will be present at times, so you have to be prepared to work through them. Listen when a person is displaying negative emotions. What are you learning from the person, and how can you turn the negative into a positive? Also, remember the importance of perception. Just because something does not bother you does not mean it would not bother someone else.
The four most effective ways to handle negative emotions in a negotiation are to demonstrate your appreciation, respect the other negotiator’s status, make sure not to impinge upon the other negotiator’s autonomy, and build affiliation with the other negotiator.
When people do not feel appreciated, they tend to become defensive. In a negotiation, you want to demonstrate appreciation by showing how you understand the other negotiator’s perspective and communicate this.
Negative emotions can also develop when a person does not feel as if his or her status (or standing in the community) is being respected. Ask yourself, are you respecting the other negotiator’s status?
Additionally, sometimes people accidently impinge upon another negotiator’s autonomy by becoming too controlling in the process. During a negotiation, ask yourself if you are dominating the conversation. Many people become defensive if they think they are being controlled. A good solution to prevent impinging upon someone’s autonomy is to ask more questions instead of making statements. Questions are less threatening.
Most importantly, in order to prevent negative emotions, you want to build affiliation with the other negotiator. This creates a human connection. Negotiators are less likely to attack other negotiators when they feel a connection, which could be based on what they have in common. It could be having the same hobbies, being from the same place, or even liking the same sports teams.
Also, if you are feeling negative emotions, ask yourself if you are feeling appreciated, if you feel as if your status is being respected, if your autonomy is being impinged, or if you are feeling a lack of connection with the other negotiator. If you feel as if any of these are not being met, communicate this with the other negotiator.
Learning how to deal with emotions is only one piece of the puzzle that is needed to become a good negotiator. In addition to knowing how to handle emotions, a good negotiator needs to know how to do research, create a backup plan, identify communication styles, create a strategy, and know how to say “no.” A negotiation is both a science and an art.
A negotiation does not have to be a battle. Think of it as a joint problem solving opportunity where positive emotions can help you create the best option, which will help you create a win-win outcome.
Elizabeth Counsman is a communications and negotiation specialist with a background in law and mediation, a full-time course director at Full Sail University where she teaches negotiation and deal-making, a certified circuit court mediator, a mentor for the weVENTURE IGNITE 360 Business Mentoring Program and a member of the Florida Bar.
Columnist series is sponsored by weVENTURE at the Florida Institute of Technology College of Business. weVENTURE has locations in Melbourne and Rockledge. The Center is funded in part through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration. For more information, visit weventure.org or call 321-674-7007.