Emotional Intelligence and Negotiations

There has been a lot written about emotional intelligence, how to improve it, and why having a stronger emotional intelligence may help in business. However, the implications to negotiations indicate more emotionally intelligent parties may also have greater empathy and be willing to lower their expectations at the negotiating table. So what should you do?

I am a student of emotional intelligence, negotiations and neuroscience. Having read, taken the test and then retaken the test 60 days later after learning techniques form Travis Bradberry’s book Emotional Intelligence 2.0, I believe it has helped me in my business and personal life. We can all improve and continue to learn from various sources. I am by no means perfect, but I did all right. In that sense it was also reaffirming. It also showed me some areas to work on, so I took the advice of the text to work on improving my own emotional intelligence, and at least according to the test offered with the book, I did improve my score.

As a mediator and negotiator, I also look to the literature to see how emotional intelligence impacts negotiators. A  study released by three academics (Kihwan Kim, Nicole L.A. Cundiff and Suk Bon Choi) found that:

“a negotiator's emotional intelligence was correlated with his or her counterpart's trust level and desire to work again but had no effect on joint gain. In addition, rapport fully mediated the relationship between emotional intelligence and desire to work again, and between emotional intelligence and trust.”

So what does this mean? Those with strong emotional intelligence were able to build a rapport and trust better in a negotiation than those that were weaker in this area. That is positive for a negotiating team. At the same time they found that those that with strong emotional intelligence were often more empathetic in understanding the perspective of the other party. That could result in making additional concessions that may not have been necessary. Knowing this what might be the implications?

From my reading of this research and other articles, the practical implications are that having someone with a strong emotional intelligence on your negotiating team is a real plus. However, it is important that the same person that is able to build the rapport and trust with the other party should be teamed up with someone that can help that person avoid making concessions that are not needed.

If you are by yourself in a negotiation and you have strong emotional intelligence, be self-aware and before offering a concession, think whether the concession is really needed? Perhaps write down the concession to be sure and remember the idea for later in the discussion, but not necessarily offer the concession when the idea first comes to mind. The question to ask is it really necessary to offer this concession at this time.

An Example

I was recently in a negotiation personally with an event planner for an association two day event. They wanted to know if I would speak to an organization for a specific fee and they were also happy to pay for my travel expenses. Instead of initially addressing the fee, I asked if they wanted me as a key note speaker, a break out speaker, an executive break out facilitator, how many people were attending, where was the venue and a host of other questions. This helped me to evaluate the event more fully and it planted additional seeds with the event planner of my value added to the participants. She wants participants to leave going “wow” after the event. That is my goal too.

Then I asked if she was sitting down and she was. My minimum speaking fee is now 5 times what it was a few years ago plus I needed to be reimbursed for travel expenses. I asked and she shared with me what her budget was for the two day event and that my costs would take up nearly half of their budget for speakers. I indicated I was sensitive to this as well. We negotiated for me to provide 4 hours of presentation time broken up into various activities. As a concession I indicated I would do this for the fixed fee, but to help her and the organization, I would pay for my own travel expenses. She really appreciated that concession on my part.

Now for the question, did I need to eat the travel expenses? I don’t know? Should I have done that? It seemed like the right thing to do to help her and the organization? I also thought this may help for other future engagements and her recommendation to others. Upon reflection of this recent research, maybe I didn’t need to do that. My emotional intelligence says it was the right thing to do. If my goal was to negotiate a higher overall take home amount, maybe I shouldn’t have thrown in that I would eat the travel expenses. At the same time there was a tradeoff of lower take home amount versus other potential speaking engagements and her recommendations. These are the kinds of tradeoffs that need to be considered after a negotiation to learn what to do for future negotiations.

What are the implications?

Explore your own emotional intelligence and how you approach negotiations. Learn from this research and explore how you or your team plan and carry out negotiations. How important is the bottom line? How important is building the rapport for the future? What are the short term and long term goals of the negotiation? What are you willing to trade off to reach a successful negotiation? As with any negotiation explore interests and focus on the problem. Don’t be too quick to offer a concession. Think about the implications and decide how the concession may impact your and the other party’s interests.

For additional insight I would like to offer this article from the Program on Negotiations at the Harvard Law School written by Katie Shonk that you may find of interest. This is the article that brought the academic study to my attention that I referenced above, and it provides links to other areas you may find of interest.

Michael Gregory, NSA, ASA, CVA, MBA is an international speaker, that helps organization, resolve conflict and negotiate winning solutions. Mike is dedicated to making individuals, organizations, thought-leading entrepreneurs and executives more successful. Michael’s books, including The Servant Manager, How to Work with the IRS, Second Edition and Peaceful Resolutions  (also available as an ebook) are available at this link.  On point resources are available online at www.mikegreg.com and check out the blog. Contact Mike directly at mg@mikegreg.com or call (651) 633-5311.