Anger, sadness, disappointment, anxiety, envy, excitement, happiness and regret are all emotions that can have a significant impact on a negotiation.
Human beings are, by nature, emotional and our ability to understand and manage our emotions (known as emotional intelligence) is critical to our success in all aspects of life, especially while dealing with other people in highly charged negotiations.

Using Emotions to Your Advantage in Negotiations

We can use emotions to our advantage if we possess a high level of emotional intelligence. We want to consider both what we feel emotionally before, during and after a negotiation as well as what we express about our feelings to our negotiation counterpart.

Let’s take a closer look at some of these emotions in turn:

Anger:  Escalates conflict, biases perceptions and makes impasses more likely.  Some negotiators feel that there is an advantage using anger and this may be somewhat true in simple one off transactional negotiations where there is little opportunity for collaboration.  Buying a car from someone could be an example.  Acting as the buyer’s agent in an area you don’t normally work in where you hold most of the power could be a real estate example.  Typically, highly skilled negotiators do not use power deliberately.

Anxiety:  This has been proven to weaken your position significantly and leads to suboptimal outcomes.  It is important to limit your nervousness and to make it less obvious to your negotiating opponent.

Disappointment:  Expressing disappointment strategically at the end of a negotiation may encourage the other party to look critically at their own actions and consider whether they want to change their position to reduce the negative feelings they have caused you.  There is a fine line between anger and disappointment so choose your words and tone carefully.

Regret:  Similar to disappointment, regret is often the result of the process more than the outcome.  While regret may not benefit you, strategically reducing the chances of causing regret in your opponent could have benefits to the overall outcome.  Asking more questions, listening more attentively and slowing down the negotiations can help to avoid the discomfort of regret

Happiness:  Expressing happiness can generate ill will in a negotiation if that happiness was achieved at the expense of the other side.  In the negotiation classes I teach, I often see students boast and brag about how they manipulated the other side.  Not only does this make them seem like jerks, in a real world setting, this could lead to the other party renegotiating or revoking the deal.  You don’t want to make your counterpart feel disappointed with the negotiation.  On the other hand, if you express happiness as a result of working collaboratively with the other side and you are happy about the mutually beneficial outcomes, sharing this emotion could build good will and may help avoid a costly renegotiation after subject/condition removal.

Excitement:  This can lead to bad decision making.  If we are really excited to make the deal, we may accept poor terms, miss nuances in the negotiations and settle when it may not be the best outcome.  The advice from Alison Wood Brooks at the Harvard Business School is to be skeptical.  Don’t let your excitement lead to overconfidence or an escalation of commitment with insufficient data.

While emotional intelligence gives us the opportunity to manage and use our emotions to our side’s benefit, understanding and managing the emotions of the other side, known as social intelligence, is also critically important to any negotiation. Look for further information on that in next week’s blog post.