Turn emotions into a mutually beneficial agreement

Man with his mouth open amazed at what he is seeing


Have you been in a negotiation and felt a trigger impact you and begin to raise tension in your body? Would you like to know how to move from this emotionally charged moment to a greater focus leading to a mutually beneficial agreement?  Read on. We are all emotionally charged beings. We need this for survival. However, our brain cannot differentiate between something that is genuinely going to kill us and when something is very negative and may lead to an outcome we prefer did not materialize. When we “flood” with emotions this can derail the negotiation and even make a negotiation impossible at that moment.


Managing emotions


When emotions are managed properly this can actually allow you to see an opportunity and to create additional value, identify other interests, and reach an agreement that is mutually beneficial and at worst something both parties can live with going further. In this article by Lara Sanpietro with the Harvard Law School Program on Negotiation, she offers four simulations and a teacher’s guide to help practice how to deal with emotions in negotiations.

In the book Beyond Reason Roger Fisher and Daniel Shapiro offers five “core concerns that motivate people. These are:

  1. Appreciation


  1. Affiliation


  1. Autonomy


  1. Status and role.

You can see similarities between this and neuroscientist David Rocks SCARF model for collaborating with and influencing others. SCARF offers five key elements that influence our behavior with others.

  1. Status – our relative importance to others.
  2. Certainty – our ability to predict the future.
  3. Autonomy – our sense of control over events.
  4. Relatedness – how safe we feel with others.
  5. Fairness – how fair we perceive the exchanges between people to be.

And as a third model for how to argue effectively with others Dan Shapiro from Harvard University offers

  1. Identity – Focus on core values and note your own self pride
  2. Appreciation – Everyone wants to be appreciated. Take the time to listen for 10 minutes. You have the power to listen actively without judgment
  3. Affiliation – Find common ground

Whether trying to motivate people, influence the behavior or others, or argue effectively there are clear similarities.

Note that at least two of these models recommend





So, clearly demonstrating appreciation not only by what you say, but also by what you do is critical. What are ways that you can help others to stay focused on the problem or be a servant manager?

Affiliation goes beyond appreciation. This is where you find common ground with each other. Affiliation is when you search for and offer advice on ways in which you can work together.

Autonomy is the ability to be able to make informed, independent decisions. When a person feels they have the ability to make decisions based on trust they feel engaged and enabled.

Regarding status, the more the parties can equalize status the greater the likelihood of creating a better working relationship with each other. The upper level person that can interact well with the lower level employee and the more they relate to each other with genuine, connecting, authentic commentary, the greater the likelihood of developing trust with one another.

Also identified as important in at least one model are:



Fairness, and


Certainty is being able to predict what will happen in the future. As will be expanded upon in the stress response below, not having certainty adds to stress. Therefore, being transparent and offering insight into the future can help to reduce stress and help bring parties to a more equal perspective. Knowledge is power. Sharing knowledge shares power.

Relatedness involves how safe we feel with one another. Are you with me and working besides me at least intellectually if not actually? If you are both comfortable with one another, step back. Possibly by trying to be constructive this and of itself could break the ice to reduce the emotional friction.

The perception of fairness is in the eye of the beholder. You may feel you are being fair, but does the other party feel that way? How do you know? Did you ask? If not, why not? Perceiving that you are being fair is as important as actually being fair.

Identity as being offered by Dan Shapiro focuses on finding and relating to common core values. What do you believe? When someone attacks your core values or beliefs this becomes 100 times more powerful. It is not about what you are arguing about, it is about how to argue. Your sense of self is on the line. Knowing what you stand for is at your core.

When you are stressed out this can cause your emotions to rise even more and more quickly. So, what is the stress response?


The Stress Response


The stress response involves control, predictability, and progress. The more you have a sense of control this helps reduce your stress. The micromanager likes to be in control but the micromanaged hate it. When you have a sense of what is going to happen such as with daily rituals your brain reinforces that things are ok. Finally, everyone likes to see progress. Take big projects and break them down into parts celebrating along the way when small accomplishments are made.


Overall commentary


By pausing, de-escalating, and focusing on the problem you can work on de-escalating yourself. Mindfulness in the form of prayer, reflection, meditation, or yoga can help you center yourself. When think about your emotions if you step back and think that is not about me. It is about we, but it starts with me. You can be the one to stay focused going forward. When you think about whether you are trying to motivate people, influence the behavior or others, or argue effectively the similarities are uncanny. Three models are presented for you to consider. How might you apply these appropriately to your emotionally charged situation? Let me know what you think.

About the author

Mike Gregory is a professional speaker, an author, and a mediator. You may contact Mike directly at mg@mikegreg.com and at (651) 633-5311. Mike has written 12 books (and co-authored two others) including his latest book, The Collaboration Effect: Overcoming Your Conflicts, and The Servant Manager, Business Valuations and the IRS, and Peaceful Resolutions that you may find helpful. [Michael Gregory, ASA, CVA, MBA, Qualified Mediator with the Minnesota Supreme Court]