Emotions While Negotiating
Emotions are an essential part of any negotiation. Framing interests in a way that avoids negative emotions and promotes positive emotions in your other is important work. This post is not about those emotions. This post is about recognizing and dealing with your emotions while negotiating. To paraphrase William Ury, the greatest obstacle to our success in negotiation is ourselves. It is the tendency to react – to act without thinking. This post contains actionable strategies to get your emotions in check during even the most tense negotiation. What lays ahead are strategies from world class negotiators, navy seals and psychologists.
Go to the Balcony
Most negotiators have read Getting to Yes.In the sequel Getting Past No Roger Fisher and William Ury offered five steps for overcoming no. The first step was a method of emotional detachment that involved visualization. They called It going to the balcony. The method involves removing yourself mentally from the emotional negotiation by picturing yourself standing on a balcony overlooking the negotiation and considering objectively what is going on.
Fisher and Ury endorse this approach even when you are being yelled at and abused. They note that you always have control over your own behaviour. By not giving up this control you can keep focused on your BATNA and on your goals for the negotiation.
The Big Four
Special Forces operators have one of the most stressful jobs in the world. Much research has been done on how to help them cope with the stress of both training and operations in extreme environments. The Big Four was developed as a strategy for helping recruit and operators manage that stress. It involves four elements:
- Goal Setting
- Tactical Breathing
- Self Talk
Goal setting and visualization typically occur prior to an engagement. As negotiators it is a good idea to set a range of goals and be clear on your interest prior to the start of a negotiation. While preparing for a negotiation it makes sense to visualize and rehearse what will happen based on your others reaction to your proposals. I wrote an article on how these techniques help you manage stress at the bargaining table.
Tactical breathing or box breathing is a type of breathing Where you inhale for 4 seconds hold for 4 seconds exhale for 4 seconds hold for 4 seconds and repeat. The Hindus call this type of breathing Prana or life breath. I’m not a big Yogo guy but research has linked this breathing to lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Box breathing holds physiologic gains, letting you get your stress under control, and strategic gains, you can’t do it while you are talking. Employing box breathing helps prevent you from reacting while you are starting to experience stress.
During a negotiation it is useful to tell yourself that a good deal is possible and that you and your team are the ones that can find it. This is especially important after facing an attack from across the table. Reacting with a defensive posture aligns your reaction to preventing loss. Subjectively we value things we have more than things we don’t. It’s called endowment bias. Endowment bias leads to loss aversion. Where we seek to avoid smaller losses rather than make larger gains. That reaction is inflamed when we feel under attack. Positive self talk can ground you in a better head space and help you avoid strategic errors.
From Oh F#@& to Ok
Psychologist Mark Goulston describes the process of getting back to rational thought after being upset or afraid as the “Oh F#@& to Ok Speed Drill.” The process identifies everyones’ natural reaction to threat and teaches you to speed through your own process so you can immediately regain control over your emotions while negotiating and continue communicating towards your goal. The phases are Oh F#@&, Oh God, Oh Jeez, Oh Well, Ok.
- Oh F#@&
- Oh God
- Oh Jeez
- Oh Well
The first step is the reaction phase. It is important not to deny your feelings. Labeling your feelings has been shown to disengage the brain’s threat centre, the amygdala.
Having labeled the emotion you are feeling, your amygdala is calming. As this happens you enter the release phase. Taking the effort to relax allows you to regain balance.
As the effort to relax decreases and the amygdala continues to cool, you recentre during this phase.
This is the phase in which you refocus on the problem at hand. You start to plan your next move.
Returning to your baseline with a plan you are ready to reengage.
You may not always be able To control your emotions while negotiating. The key is to keep your mouth shut and employ some of the strategies above so you can get them back into control before they impact your negotiation. One of the benefits upbringing in a mediator is that they can help you work through your reactions to the other party prior to them harming the negotiation. If you have tense dispute and need the help of an outside neutral please feel free to contact me.