Emotional reactions can prevent us from negotiating well

How To Negotiate With People That You Don’t Get Along With

Emotional reactions can prevent us from negotiating well
Emotional reactions can prevent us from negotiating well
Image Credit: Elton Harding

That negotiating thing is difficult enough without having to deal with all of the different people involved. However, we need to admit that there will be times that no matter how difficult a negotiation is and no matter what negotiation styles or negotiating techniques we are using, it will really be the people that we are dealing with that are the source of our greatest issues. When we find ourselves in a situation like this, we are going to have to be able to sit back, understand what is happening, and then come up with a plan for dealing with it. If we can’t do this, then there is no way that we’re ever going to be able to reach a deal with these people!


How Did We Get Here?

When you are involved in a negotiation and you realize that the other side is getting under your skin you have to mentally take a break and ask yourself why this is happening. The answer, as it always is, is that something they are doing or saying is pushing our buttons. Annoyance doesn’t foster a productive negotiation, of course, but it’s not our fault that they’re getting on our nerves. Or is it?

The smart people who spend their time studying how we negotiate tell us that when we have strong visceral reactions to other people, we should examine our own feelings and attitudes, not just theirs. If we are willing to take a step back and be honest with ourselves, we may recognize in other people’s behavior the dark side of our own nature. This part of us is our internal demon, also called our nemesis. The challenge that we have as negotiators is that it’s always lurking inside us, ready to pounce. Knowing, and identifying, what triggers our internal nemesis is the one of the first steps in an effective strategy for us to engage in productive conflict management and dispute resolution.

Take a moment and consider this situation. Imagine that you have to sit down and negotiate with someone who appears to be belligerent. Deep down, you may actually be recoiling from personal feelings you’d prefer to deny as you react to the way that this person appears to be. The fact that they are coming across as being angry to us will cause us to automatically start to react to them. In order to suppress our own angry impulses, it’s psychologically convenient to project negative emotions onto this person. If you bristle, suspicious that they haven’t been completely forthright, it might be because you’ve been tempted be less than trustworthy yourself.


The Best Way To Deal With People That You Don’t Get Along With

All of this talk now leads us to dealing with the question of when someone is driving you nuts, how should we handle this situation? The best thing for you to do is to turn the emotional tables on them: spend some time imagining what might prompt you to behave like him or her if you found yourself in their position. Underneath their outward belligerence, you may find anxiety or defensiveness. You may also locate your own internal nemesis, especially if the bargaining stakes are high. As negotiators what we need to realize is that we all have both good and bad sides in us and we may not be able to control which one is coming out right now.

I’d like to tell you that putting yourself in the other person’s position is an easy thing to do. However, it turns out that it can be very difficult to do. As negotiators what we need to realize is that this projection stuff is very much a two-way street, of course. We have all been in negotiations where the other side, who were probably in a bad mood, decided to make accusations and assumptions that didn’t seem to have anything to do with you. I can only speak for myself, but when I’ve been in situations where this has happened I tend to get both angry and defensive. I feel that the other side has no good reason for doing what they are doing.

It turns out that my reactions to dealing with an angry or upset other side of a negotiation is not the correct way to proceed. Instead, what we really need to learn how to do is what is called putting on an “emotional flak jacket”. The reason that we do this is to create a way that we can deflect other people’s misplaced anger. We can’t stop them from being angry; however, perhaps we can stop their anger from affecting us. As negotiators we do need to understand that that this can be challenging. When we take responsibility for our own complicated feelings this doesn’t mean that we have to accept other people’s misplaced feelings and it certainly need not cloud our decision making abilities in negotiations and beyond.


What All Of This Means For You

At the end of the day, negotiating is very much a people job. We find ourselves having to sit down at the negotiating table with all manner of people. Not all of these people are happy to have a chance to talk with us. When we find ourselves in a situation where we are dealing with people who not happy, we need to adjust to the circumstances and find a way to work with them. Our goal still has to be the same – to reach a workable deal with them. The only thing that changes is how we are going to make this happen.

The first thing that has to happen is as negotiators we need to realize when the other side is annoying us. When we have this realization, we need to then sit back and try to figure out just exactly how they are getting under our skin. What we have to realize is that our reaction to the other side may be caused by our inner nemesis. We may be seeing in them things that we also see in ourselves. We need to understand that when we become angry at the other side of the table, it may be because we are transferring how we are feeling on to them and allowing our selves to become angry effectively at ourselves. The best way to deal with this is to turn tables on the other side and spend some time putting yourself in their shoes. Can you figure out why they are feeling the way that they are? This can be very difficult to do and it is all too easy to get angry at someone that you believe is angry with you. The correct thing to do is to put on an “emotional flak jacket” and allow their anger to roll off our shoulders. The most important thing to remember is to not allow it to affect your decision making.

In the world of negotiating, we are called on to deal with all sorts of people. In order to be able to reach the deal that we want, we need to learn how to deal with people that we simply don’t get along with. The good news is that this can be done, the bad new is that it is not easy to do. If we can learn to identify why people are upset, spend sometime understanding the root causes of their discontent, and then learn to not be affected by their negative mood, then we’ll still be able to do a good job of negotiating. Take the time to review these strategies and you’ll be ready the next time during a principled negotiation that you encounter somebody that you don’t get along with.


– Dr. Jim Anderson Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Negotiating Skills™


Question For You: Do you think that you should pause a negotiation if you find yourself getting upset with the other side?


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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

There are times when something is being negotiated that we choose to not go it alone. Instead, we decide that we need some help. When this happens we may bring in an agent to represent us to the other side . However, this can cause problems. If you do this, you wonder whether you can trust the agent to fully represent your best interests no matter what negotiation styles or negotiating techniques are being used. The bad news is that according to principal agent theory, the answer often is “no.”

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