Beyond Reason offers negotiators—and that means everyone—a powerful framework for dealing with emotions. Whether or not you acknowledge emotions, they will have an impact on your negotiation. Rather than feeling powerless in the face of emotions, you will be able to stimulate positive emotions and overcome negative ones.
Address the Concern, Not the Emotion
The core concerns are human wants that are important to almost everyone in virtually every negotiation. Rather than trying to deal directly with scores of changing emotions affecting you and others, you can turn your attention to five core concerns:
You can use them as levers to stimulate positive emotions in yourself and in others. If you have time, you also can use them as a lens to understand which concern is unmet and to tailor your actions to address the unmet concern.
Find Merit in What Others Think, Feel, or Do—and Show It
Appreciation is a core concern. Everyone has a desire to feel understood, valued, and heard. If people feel honestly appreciated, they are more likely to work together and less likely to act hostile.
You can appreciate by:
- Understanding a person’s point of view;
- Finding merit in what the person thinks, feels, or does;
- Communicating your understanding through words or actions.
You may not agree with the other person’s point of view. That is fine. But, you can understand it and acknowledge whatever merit you can find.
Turn an Adversary into a Colleague
With enhanced affiliation, working together becomes easier and more productive. There are two qualities to affiliation:
- Structural connections: These are links you have with someone else based upon your common membership in a group. You can strengthen structural connections by finding links that you have in common with someone or by creating new links.
- Personal connections: These are the personal ties that bond you with another. By talking about personal matters, you can reduce the personal distance between you. But make sure to give people plenty of space, too
Expand Yours (and Don’t Impinge upon Theirs)
We all want an appropriate degree of autonomy. When someone impinges upon it—whether intentionally or not—we tend to experience negative emotions. When it is respected, we tend to feel engaged. As you negotiate, take the initiative:
- Expand your autonomy. Whatever your authority, you can always make a recommendation or suggest inventing options before deciding. Joint brainstorming is a practical process for you to invent options for mutual benefit.
- Avoid impinging upon the other person’s autonomy. You can consult before deciding, whether with a colleague or with invisible stakeholders By respecting people’s core concern for autonomy, you can stimulate positive emotions in them and in yourself.
Recognize High Standing Wherever Deserved
Since every person has multiple areas of high status, there is no need to compete with others over status. Appreciate the high status of others where relevant and deserved and feel proud of your own areas of expertise and achievement.
While it takes self-confidence to strive for approval, it takes just as much audacity to be satisfied with who you are and to value what you bring to a negotiation. If you truly appreciate your own status, you need not worry about what others think of you. In turn, you can acknowledge the status of others without cost. And treating others with appropriate respect often makes them respect you.
Choose Where You Stand
In a negotiation, you always have a job to do. In most cases, however, how you do that job is up to you. You are free to expand the activities within your conventional role. In almost any role, you can focus your attention on aspects that are boring, dull, frustrating, and time consuming.
You can define your role narrowly, limiting it to those things that you are obliged to do or that someone else expects you to do. Yet you have the freedom to shape activities in your role. Time and again, you also are free to choose temporary roles that empower you and foster joint work.
Reshaping your role can take effort. But don’t give up. Give it a try. And try again. Over time, you can modify your role to your liking.
Venting Isn’t An Answer
While many people assume that venting is a helpful way to get rid of strong negative emotions, it often leaves us and others angrier. As we create arguments demonstrating why we are right and others are wrong, we talk ourselves into a storm. Venting can be helpful, but only to the extent that there is someone to moderate self-justifications and to keep in mind each party’s perspective of the situation.
Prepare on Process
Preparation improves the emotional climate of a negotiation. A well-prepared negotiator walks into a meeting with emotional confidence about the substantive and process issues, as well as with clarity about how to enlist each party’s positive emotions.
There are two important activities involved in effective preparation:
- Establishing a routine structure of preparation. You want to prepare in terms of the process of the negotiation, the substantive issues, and the emotions of each party.
- Learning from past negotiations. Experience is of little future value unless you learn from it. After a negotiation, review the interaction in terms of process, substance, and emotions. Ask yourself what each party did that worked well and what could be done differently in the future.
Prepare on Emotions
If we disagree with someone, how can we interact in ways that stimulate positive emotions in both of us?
- Take the initiative. If you are dealing with someone with whom you disagree, don’t wait for emotions to happen and then react.
- Address the concern, not the emotion. Rather than try to understand every current emotion and its possible causes, focus on five widely shared concerns that can be used to stimulate helpful emotions in others and in you.
These core concerns are:
- Appreciation. Feeling unappreciated puts people down. We can appreciate others by understanding their point of view; finding merit in what they think, feel, or do; and communicating our understanding through words or action. We can appreciate ourselves, too.
- Affiliation. Rather than having each negotiator feel alone and disconnected, we can try to build structural connections as colleagues and personal connections as confidantes.
- Autonomy. Recognize that everyone wants freedom to affect or make a great many decisions. We can expand our autonomy and avoid impinging upon theirs.
- Status. No one likes to feel demeaned. Rather than compete with others over who has the higher social status, we can acknowledge everyone’s areas of particular status, including our own.
- Role. An unfulfilling role leaves us feeling trivialized and unengaged. Yet we are free to choose roles that help us and others work together. And we can expand the activities within any role to make them fulfilling.
Using the core concerns wisely will improve the quality of your relationships at work and at home. You can turn a negotiation from a stressful, worrisome interaction into a side-by-side dialogue where each of you listens, learns, and respects the other.