Select Page

Negotiation Williams Family blogNegotiating is an interpersonal process. There will always be at least one other party (and often many more) involved. Recently, the Harvard Business Review published an adjoining article discussing how to manage your own emotions during a negotiation. In this blog post, I suggest the two strategies for doing so:

1. Be observant. Perceiving how other people are feeling is a critical component of emotional intelligence, and it’s particularly key in negotiations (as Adam Galinsky and his colleagues have found). So tune in to your counterpart’s body language, tone of voice, and choice of words. When her verbal and nonverbal cues don’t match up, ask questions. For example, “You are telling me you like this outcome, but you seem uneasy. Is something making you uncomfortable?” Or “You say you’re angry, but you seem somewhat pleased. Are you truly upset about something? Or are you trying to intimidate me?”

Asking pointed questions based on perceptions of the other party’s emotional expressions will make it easier for you to understand her perspective (a task people are shockingly bad at, according to research by Nicholas Epley). It will also make it difficult for a counterpart to lie to you; evidence suggests that people prefer to tell lies of omission about facts rather than lies of commission about feelings.

2. Don’t be afraid to exert direct influence on your counterpart’s emotions. This may sound manipulative or even unscrupulous, but you can use this influence for good. For example, if your counterpart seems anxious or angry, injecting humor or empathetic reassurance can dramatically change the tone of the interaction. By the same token, if your counterpart seems overconfident or pushy, expressing well-placed anger can inspire a healthy dose of fear.

In recent research with Elizabeth Baily Wolf, the Harvard Business Review found that it’s possible to go even further in managing others’ emotions: You display an emotion, your counterpart sees it, and then you shape his interpretation of it. For example, imagine that you start crying at work. (Crying is a difficult-to-control and often embarrassing behavior.) Saying “I’m in tears because I’m passionate” rather than “I’m sorry I’m so emotional” can completely change the way others react and the way they view your self-control and competence.