Social intelligence is the ability to be aware of and understand other people’s emotions and respond to those emotions appropriately. In negotiations, this is a huge opportunity to gain some benefit.
If your counterpart is angry, anxious, excited, sad, frightened or overtly happy and you are unaware of those emotions, there is a risk of fuelling negative emotions, missing queues and generally weakening your position in the negotiation.
If your counterpart is angry, your natural reaction is flight, fight or freeze. Obviously, any of these will have a negative impact on the negotiations. If you observe the anger and then diffuse it, you’ll build collaboration and perhaps gain a power advantage in the process.
For example, if the other agent arrives angry and aggressive and you stay calm, be pleasant and as the angry behaviour continues you might say, “It’s great to be working with someone else who is so committed to their clients. I think in this situation we have a great seller, a great buyer and the two of us should be able to put our heads together and find a perfect solution that works for everyone. How do you feel about aiming for that rather than butting heads?” The compliment or acknowledgement at the beginning is crucial. This will create an opening in the wall of defensiveness. You may not get them on the first try, but you will be surprised by the effectiveness of being the observer of emotions and not the reactor.
Observing someone’s emotions can also give us a greater depth of understanding about what is going on for both the other agent and their clients, an incredible form of information gathering. Emotions can give us some insight into tension we couldn’t otherwise see, financial strain, or on the flip side a great deal of excitement and enthusiasm on the part of the realtor and their clients. All of this extra information is valuable in knowing what to aim for in your negotiation.
Changes in emotion experienced by your counterpart is another thing to observe. As people’s emotions change given different subject points, discussion items and possibilities, we can get an idea of their greatest priorities and greatest fears. Excitement, anxiety and anger all come up the most for the points that are the highest priority in a negotiation, and looking for these emotions can give us an understanding that helps reach a solution where everyone’s needs are being met.