In our technical world, a focus on the objective and unchanging seems the rule. But at the end of the day, knowing how to deal with and use emotion remains one of the great earmarks of professional negotiation. Used tactically, emotion can be decisive if one recognizes what lies beyond the emotional reaction. Negotiations can be stressful and it is not uncommon for people to emotionally lash out in cruel and personal ways. As Carl Jung said, “The healthy man does not torture others – generally it is the tortured who turn into torturers.”
One example of how emotion commonly manifests in negotiation, outside the anger discussed above, is as a sense of shock and outrage. This can create a momentary or even permanent recoil, as many of us are uncomfortable with others’ discomfort. For example, if we make an offer and it triggers upset, the other party may exclaim, “Outrageous! I am shocked, hurt, and disappointed.” Or you may be earnest in communicating your breaking point by issuing a mild threat: “I am about to lose my cool, and you don’t want to be around me when that happens.”
Just as with anger, when emotions come into play, know that the loudest person in the room is often the weakest. We must acknowledge the emotion to move the dialog forward. Then either move on, or preferably, take a break. Consider saying, “I understand, but your emotions do not reflect or impact the reality of the situation. Maybe we should take a break.” Or, “what I feel is irrelevant, we are talking about indemnity and industry standards.” Recognizing emotion can be useful in many, many situations. The key is comfort. In physical negotiations, such as climbing a mountain, novices may become hysterical if they are physically stressed, exposed thousands of feet above the valley floor. To get them up the mountain, offer comfort, drink, food, and a jacket. Move to the board room and the same approach still works: offer comfort and snacks, and enjoy the air conditioning.