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in an article about negotiation, two shaking hands

If you approach the deal with a level head and keep your feelings in check, everyone will be better off.

Effective negotiation is both a science and an art. It requires attention to detail, strong communication skills, and a good amount of trust. Yet, one thing negotiation does not require is emotion — but emotion is unavoidable, and could hinder a negotiation’s success.

Feeling emotion is a quintessential human experience, but strong or low emotions can emerge at times when it may be inappropriate to express. Everything needs to be just right during a negotiation to ensure both parties see success, and certain emotions can throw a wrench into the works, preventing negotiations from going smoothly. So, how does an executive-level negotiator effectively control their emotions during discussions? Read on to find out.

Anxiety

According to the American Psychological Association, anxiety is an emotion, just like happiness or anger. In many cases, anxiety is normal and even beneficial, alerting the subject to new environments or potential threats. Many people experience negotiation as a dangerous situation with the potential for undesirable outcomes, which causes them to feel anxiety throughout the negotiation process.

Unfortunately, anxiety isn’t a particularly productive emotion for negotiations. Most often, those in the midst of a negotiation have an urge to end negotiations quickly and exit the situation, which isn’t particularly effective and can result in undesired outcomes for all parties involved.

A particularly enlightening study looking into the effects of anxiety on negotiations had participants negotiate cell phone contracts. One group of participants were made to feel anxious (by listening to the theme music from “Psycho”), and their negotiations were markedly different from the group prompted to feel calmer. The anxious group had weaker first offers, responded to counteroffers with greater haste and were more likely to end negotiations sooner.

Other studies have found that negotiators experiencing anxiety display:

  • Lower confidence
  • Greater likelihood to consult others when making decisions
  • Lower ability to discriminate between good and bad advice
  • Lower aptitude in recognizing conflicts of interest

Interestingly, those who view themselves as apt negotiators are often exempt from feelings of anxiety and the resulting negative effects. Thus, executives interested in controlling feelings of anxiety should do what they can to improve their negotiation skills. Taking an online negotiation programme from a top university can help those prone to anxiety feel more confident and capable in any negotiation situation.

Anger

Anger differs from anxiety in that it is directed outwards — toward someone or something else. Many negotiators believe that anger is an essential motivator to help find a solution for a problem that is creating friction. Then again, some negotiators believe that anger is helpful because it will give them the power to achieve their goals, regardless of what the other side gets.

Yet, studies on anger haven’t found much benefit in this emotion during negotiations. A large body of research by Keith Allred details the consequences of anger, which include:

  • An escalation of conflict
  • A biasing of perceptions
  • A decrease in cooperation
  • An intensification of competitive behavior
  • A reduction in joint gains
  • An increase in the number of rejected offers

Worse, angry negotiators are not usually capable of recalling their goals and interests, and they are less accurate at identifying the goals and interests of the other parties involved in the negotiation. Ultimately, anger is much more likely to cause long-term damage to the relationship, radically reducing trust and fondness, which is why even feigning anger is typically a poor strategy in negotiation.

There are ways to control one’s temper before, during and after negotiation. Those prone to anger should strive to build a rapport with members of the other side, which will help frame the negotiation as a cooperative effort rather than a competition. Remembering that negotiations usually require several meetings, not just one angry event, is a smart way to keep combative feelings in check. When tensions and tempers rise, parties can take a break to cool off before meeting again to continue negotiations.

Negotiation and emotion are two incredibly human phenomena, so it makes sense that business leaders will experience the latter during the former. Expert negotiators strive to keep their emotions positive and productive, eliminating anxiety and anger to ensure negotiations go as smoothly as possible.

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