Our emotions influence every aspect of life. However, both in our personal and professional lives, keeping our emotions and feelings in check can be a great challenge.
When we talk about the workplace, controlling your emotions becomes fundamental in order to pursue a successful career and in some sectors it must be even greater. This is the case, for example, in the purchasing department, where negotiation processes are common, which demands a lot from professionals.
In this article, we will bring useful information to use emotions in a positive way, which helps you to have better results in negotiations in general. Check it out!
Feelings at the Negotiating Table
Until recently, emotion was considered an obstacle to reaching constructive agreements. But this concept is changing, and now it is suggested that controlling emotion in negotiation can bring positive results.
In the book Building Agreement: Using Emotions as You Negotiate, Daniel Shapiro and Roger Fisher develop the idea that it is possible for the negotiator to stimulate positive emotions and overcome negative ones by showing appreciation and valuing the other party’s membership, autonomy, status and position.
For the authors, the advantage of aknowledging and knowing how to deal with these emotional dimensions is that they can be explored with the aim of understanding each party’s expectations, helping to create a more positive bargaining environment.
As we can see, negotiating depends a lot on the influence of emotions. This is because the successful negotiator needs to have good persuasive and oratory resources, but he also needs to have the perception and control of his feelings.
Studying principles of negotiation, researchers Norbert Schwarz of the University of Michigan and Gerald Clore of the University of Virginia used the phone to ask questions about life satisfaction. Fun Fact: Half of the participants answered the question on a sunny day and the other on a rainy day.
Participants who were contacted on a rainy day showed less satisfaction with life than participants who received calls on a sunny day. But when the scholars began the conversation asking, “How is the weather there?” Participants in a rainy condition responded as positively as those who were experiencing a sunny day.
Why did this happen? Simple: by recognizing the bad weather, the respondents turned off the impact of the rain when assessing their satisfaction with life.
The study therefore demonstrated that negative emotional triggers had to be turned off before negotiations could take place.
Controlling emotions in negotiation
In general, everyone is able to control the way they express their emotions, but there is one strategy that helps to take advantage of this control: control your feelings! In this way, it will be possible to disguise or emphasize an emotion, according to need and moment.
In this aspect, it is essential to prepare in advance for the negotiation. For example, if there is a setback on the way to the meeting, or if you walk into the room and encounter someone you had a confrontational relationship with, these situations must be worked through before you begin to negotiate – that is, in practice, to deactivate the negative emotional triggers!
How to do this? Ask permission to go to the bathroom and take the opportunity to work on your breathing (take a deep, paused breath a few times), do a quick relaxation or meditation, call someone who has the ability to calm you down and give you confidence, etc.
Now, if you notice that the other side has negative emotions related to the negotiation, try to create a bridge with the source of those feelings. It is possible to identify this non-positive reaction through the individual’s speech, but also through body expression, as illustrated by FGV teachers Yann Duzert and Ana Tereza Spínola, in the area of Business Management: contracted lips and eyebrows lowered and joined (means anger), touching the nails or the eyebrow as a sign of impatience.
Questions such as “hard day?” or “how was your journey here?”, aside from creating empathy, can be the starting point to minimize the influence of negative emotions during discussions.
Harvard Business School assistant professor Alison Wood Brooks explains some of the feelings that can appear at a negotiation table: “The most common emotion to appear before the process begins or during the early stages is anxiety. We are more likely to show irritation or excitement in the heat of discussions. And disappointment, sadness or grief often appear especially in the final stages of negotiation”.
All these feelings can be controlled and taken to a more advantageous side during the negotiation process, as explained by Alison, who teaches negotiation in MBA and executive education courses and is a member of the behavioral insights group.
According to her, a useful strategy to reduce anxiety is to invite an outside expert to articulate the negotiation, as these people have less personal interest in the job and can demonstrate more controlled skills.
Anger can arise from the general tendency to view negotiations in competitive, and not collaborative terms. But this feeling, according to the teacher, is not all bad. Demonstrating anger in a controlled way can make people appear stronger and more powerful, which increases their self-confidence.
But if the tension is exaggerated, pressing the pause button is a good strategy. After calming the spirits, the meeting can be resumed in a more productive way.
However, there is a line that divides irritation from disappointment. And that second emotion can already be more damaging when demonstrated at the negotiating table. One of the factors that can cause disappointment is the very fast speed of the process, which brings the feeling that more could have been done. The most obvious way to reduce the likelihood of disappointment is to act calmly and thoughtfully and, if there are any doubts, ask pertinent questions to make sure you have explored all possible alternatives.
As for joy and excitement, Alison says that in certain situations showing these feelings can generate disappointment in the other party. The best negotiators make great deals for you, but make your opponents believe that they too have made a fabulous deal.
And so we come to the last two tips about emotions in negotiations:
- Have respect for others, not letting your excitement make your interlocutors feel like losers;
- Be skeptical and don’t let your excitement turn into overconfidence, damaging future negotiations.
Emotions are inherent to conflict and play a positive role in decision-making, creativity and relationship building, such as those involving negotiation.
Want more information on advanced negotiation techniques? Check out another article we have produced on the subject: Advanced Negotiation: Prepare yourself for great results