Embracing Emotions in Negotiations

Negotiations are rarely rational, problem solving situations. They are often highly emotional.

“Emotions are one of the main things that derail communication. Once people get upset and one another, rational thinking goes out the window.” – Chris Voss

Ooof.  Does that make you uncomfortable just thinking about it? If so, you’re not alone. I think most of us are hardwired to avoid those sorts of emotional, confrontational situations. We don’t want to end up feeling bad, and most of us don’t want to make anyone else feel bad, either.

However, as Chris Voss says, “emotions aren’t the obstacles, they are the means. Instead of denying or ignoring emotions, good negotiators identify and influence them. They are able to precisely label emotions, those of others and especially their own. And once they label the emotions they talk about them without getting wound up. For them, emotion is a tool.”

This is one of the main reasons I decided to create a Negotiating Destination Guide for Business Class members, because negotiating can be scary and uncomfortable — until you have the tools that turn those emotions into assets.  I’ve also put together some Calibration Questions Scripts inside the Negotiating Guide that demonstrate how to use these emotions as tools in your next negotiations, and I’m giving it to you for free!  Click here to download the scripts now.

Let’s look at how you can use emotions as a tool in your next negotiations:

The Power of Empathy

One of the most powerful things that you can do during a negotiation is trying to understand the other person and how they feel.

For example, I was in a mastermind setting recently and a business owner said that she pays her subcontractors higher than average for their work, because one of her main values is to provide good-paying jobs for work-at-home moms. Another woman in the group spoke up and said, “I would pay more for that if you told me why. That’s a value of mine, too.”

In that case, understanding that her ideal customer also values paying a living wage or supporting work-at-home moms would be a key point to bring up in a negotiation, empathizing with her potential client’s desire to do the right thing and live their values.

According to Chris Voss, “Empathy is not about being nice or agreeing with the other side. It’s about understanding them.”

One way you can demonstrate empathy is by acknowledging it and naming how someone is feeling. To do so, you identify their emotion, give it a name, and then respectfully repeat what they are feeling back to them. Getting things out in the open — even negative emotions — gives them less power.

Expressing Vulnerability to Build Rapport

You’ve probably heard me say it a thousand times: People will do business with people they know, like, and trust. That’s true of negotiations, too, and the way you get people to know, like, and trust you is to display some vulnerability.

In her book, “Daring Greatly,” Brene Brown says, “Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness.”

Of course, there is appropriate and inappropriate vulnerability when it comes to negotiations.  You don’t want to sit down and say something like, “I really hate confrontation, so if you yell at me, I’ll probably fold like a cheap suit.”

What is appropriate is to share little personal details about yourself, like where you grew up. In fact, including those sorts of details is proven to assist in negotiations. Disclosing personal information to your partner helps to build better rapport.

When you disclose unrelated personal information, your partners may be inclined to negotiate less aggressively, and give you a better overall deal. It helps to get them into the partnership mindset.

It works both ways, too.  Try to ask two or three rapport building, sleuthing, value-finding questions before you get into your pitch — particularly in email. This information also sets you up for being able to send a personal/relevant follow up gift/email.

Accentuate what you have in common

It’s a proven psychological phenomenon that we trust people more when we view them as being similar or familiar. Very young children start to divide themselves into groups based on similarities and differences because it’s simply human nature. They don’t necessarily do it to exclude, but rather to belong.

Belonging is a primal instinct. If you can trigger that instinct, then you immediately gain influence. When our counterpart displays attitudes, beliefs, ideas — even modes of dress — that are similar to our own, we tend to like and trust them more.

To help people feel like you belong together, highlight any similarities you know of between you (that you both own dogs, are from the same area, went to the same school, like the color blue, etc.).

You can also try repeating the last three words (or the critical three words) of what someone has just said. Bonus: by repeating back what people say they will often elaborate so that you can learn more and connect further.

All of these are ways to use emotions to a positive advantage in a negotiation.  

Remember: you can approach a negotiation with a positive or negative mindset. If you expect angry, stressful confrontation, that’s likely to be what you get. If, instead, you expect to go into the negotiation with empathy, understanding, and looking for similarities, you’re more likely to come away with a win/win result that will make everyone happy.

If you’re interested in building up your negotiating skills even more, I’ve put together an entire Negotiating Guide exclusively for members of Business Class.  It includes lessons on setting the stage, choosing your negotiating strategy, negotiating from a position of authority, and a series of bonus downloads including the Calibration Questions Scripts that can help you use emotions — both negative and positive — to your advantage in your next negotiation. Just click here to grab the scripts now!


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