This is a strategy to show personal caring, which may be genuine or manipulative. This may not be a “tactic” but a protocol used to build a relationship, which is important in negotiations in many cultures.
Consider an email which asks, “How is your family doing?” before getting into the details of the negotiation.
The way to handle this is to engage with the protocol but do not be distracted. Focus on the negotiation requirements. If you hear a sad story you must be polite and considerate, but it should not alter your goal.