We need to understand the connections among emotions, negotiators, and decision making

Do You Know How Your Mood Affects Your Negotiation?

We need to understand the connections among emotions, negotiators, and decision making
We need to understand the connections among emotions, negotiators, and decision making

Image Credit: Saurabh Vyas

Let’s face it – you can’t negotiate without having some emotions come into play. We all tend to get upset, excited, depressed, and elated at different times during a negotiation because of the negotiation styles and negotiating techniques that are involved. Without a lot of surprise it turns out that the people who study such things are learning about the connections among emotions, negotiators, and decision making. Since such emotions can influence the results of our negotiations, it sure seems as though we should take some time and understand how our emotions can influence our outcomes.

The Power Of Emotions

Before we can understand the role that emotions may play in our negotiations, we are first going to have to understand what the most critical emotional themes are. It turns out that there are two of them. The first has to do with the emotions that we bring into a negotiation even before it starts. As negotiators we tend to carryover emotions from one episode to the next. A great example of this is if we are involved in a car accident prior to arriving for a negotiation. We will bring all of the emotion that we are feeling about the car accident to the negotiating table. The second theme has to do with the powerful influence of specific emotions such as happiness, sadness, and anger on decision-making.

Researchers have done a number of different studies on how our emotions cause us to behave during a negotiation. What they have discovered is that our emotions can play a major role in how we treat the other side of the table. It turns out that a negotiator’s sad mood decreases trust and negatively influences negotiated outcomes. What this means for us as negotiators is that we would do well to avoid carrying emotional baggage into our most important negotiations because of the negative impact that it can have on the outcome.

As negotiators we may believe that we are able to separate any negative feelings that we may be having from the negotiations that we will be participating in. The answer is probably not. We need to understand that emotions of all types alter our thoughts, behavior, and underlying biology. In negotiations, the fact that integral emotions—feelings triggered by the negotiation itself—affect outcomes has been well documented. For instance, if you found yourself negotiating with an old foe, you would experience anger. We now know that incidental emotions, or feelings unrelated to the negotiation at hand, also can have a significant effect on the outcome of a negotiation.

How To Deal With Emotions During A Negotiation

If we can understand that emotions can play a big role in how a negotiation turns out, then what we need to do is realize that it’s going to be up to us to get our own emotions under control. It turns out that our emotions tend to lie quietly beneath the surface until they are activated. What can cause our emotions to become activated is if someone sets off one of our emotional triggers. What this means for you is that you are going to have to take the time to identify what your emotional triggers are.

This, of course, leads to the question of what emotional triggers look like. A recent study of Americans has revealed that two emotional triggers that cause people to become distressed that many people have are when they are commuting to work and when they are talking with their boss. Now knowing that these are emotional triggers that most of us have, you need to ask yourself if there is any chance that you are letting either of these triggers affect your negotiation. Understanding this is important because knowing about it will help to improve your chances of recognizing the effects of such triggers in the heat of negotiation.

Just like you have emotional triggers, so too does the other side of the table. In order to recognize and defuse an incidental emotion in the other side, remember that their mood may have nothing to do with you. If you suspect that the other side’s feelings are being caused by thing outside of the negotiation, encourage them to draw a connection to the source of these feelings. Using open-ended questions such as “This is a terrible day, isn’t it?” or “How was your drive over here?” can help minimize the influence of negative emotions on judgments and choices.

What All Of This Means For You

As negotiators when we enter into a principled negotiation what we would all like to be able to walk away with is the best deal possible. However, it turns out that pesky things like emotions can play a role in determining what kind of deal we can get. Since emotions can play a role in determining what kind of deal we can reach with the other side, it seems as though we should spend some time understanding how they can affect us.

What we need to understand about emotions is that we can show up for a negotiation bringing emotional baggage along with us based on what has happened to us before the negotiation started. We also have to realize the powerful influence of specific emotions on us. How we are feeling can play a big role in how we treat the other side of the table. We may believe that we can separate our emotions from a negotiation, but we probably cannot. We need to understand that we have emotional triggers that can be set off at any time. Knowing what our emotional triggers are can help us to recognize them. We need to understand that the other side of the table has emotional triggers also and we have to take steps to help them deal with them.

Emotions are a powerful force in our lives and negotiators who ignore their emotions do so at their own peril. We need to accept that we have them and that we can potentially be bringing them into our negotiations. If this happens, we need to recognize it and learn how to deal with it. Understanding that the other side of the table is dealing with the same types of emotional issues can help both of us get a better deal out of the negotiation.

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

Question For You: If you are having a bad day, do you think that you should postpone your negotiation?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

In the world of negotiating there are number of classic questions that we all deal with each time we start a negotiation. One of the biggest is whether or not we should be the ones who make the first offer. The answer to this question is generally “yes” – lots of research has gone into what is called “anchoring bias” and it tells us that no matter what negotiation styles and negotiating techniques are being used, we should be the ones who move first. What is anchoring in negotiation you ask? In a negotiation centered on either price or another issue, the party who moves first typically benefits by “anchoring” the discussion that follows on their offer—even if the anchor is arbitrary.

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