This is Why Emotions Matter in Negotiations

This is Why Emotions Matter in Negotiations

Photo: Emotions by Pali Graficas man-2822206_1280 at Pixabay

Our brains are 98% and 2% rationale and yet we approach negotiations as if they are to be rationally resolved. This article focuses on your emotions and their emotions and how to address diffusing your and their emotions to focus on facts, issues, feelings and interests to work towards a resolution around particular issues.

Small Talk Impacts

Initiating a conversation with the other party to address a potential negative perspective can be very helpful. Two academic researchers simply asked a question regarding the weather to participants when it was sunny and when it was rainy on the other end of the line. Those that were experiencing sunny weather were more positive in their evaluations. Those that were experiencing rainy gloomy weather provided much better evaluations when they were simply asked “how is the weather down there” than those that were not. By simply asking “how is the weather down there” this allowed participants to provide a response to address the gloomy rainy weather, or to reflect a response that indicated that it was not so bad.

Think about this in terms of your interaction with another party and allowing them to respond from the statement, “how are you today?” or “how are things going with you?

Your Bias in Negotiations

We all have biases. Harvard allows you to take their implicit bias test on line. Although the purpose of the Harvard Implicit bias test is to determine racial bias, I would offer we have many other biases as well. When entering into a negotiation it is very important to diffuse our internal biases as much as possible. You can consider this emotionally and if you are interested more scientifically. Focusing on the emotions in this article, I would suggest that you explore labeling your own feelings before entering the negotiation. Simply doing so may help you diffuse the situation. Another observation is to take a few moments for prayer, meditation, reflection or yoga to help clear your mind of your preconceived biases and move your thought process to a more neutral perspective.

Diffusing Your Counterpart's Emotional Triggers

Open ended questions are the key to diffusing other’s emotional triggers. Whether these be hostage negotiations, educating the other party, or preparing your emotional strategy, open ended questions are the key. With my book Peaceful Resolutions I provide a pocket guide with six fold out pages. I have given away over 3,000 copies of this pocket guide away at presentations regardless of the audience. I always emphasize the one of the pages in the pocket guide on open ended questions. I think using this technique is very helpful. These are elaborated in the text of my book. Here I share with you the condensed version in the pocket guide:

“What do you what to have happen?

What do you hope to accomplish?

What concerns do you have?

What is the problem we are trying to solve?

Are there any other problems?

What will it take for us to work together?

What would need to happen for you to feel satisfied?

What is the best-case scenario?”

These certainly are not all inclusive, but these should provide you some ideas to consider when trying to help diffuse the situation with an anxious or agitated party.

Focusing back on the weather again, if you are meeting with someone and indeed the weather was bad coming over, simply acknowledging this and having the chance to briefly discuss it, may well be a way to help diffuse the situation and demonstrate that we both agree on something. Look for what you can agree with the other person, and cherish small victories to help diffuse yourself and the other party so that you can focus on the facts, issues, and the emotions around the issues to determine underlying interests and work collectively towards a resolution or collaborative solution. This is why emotions matter in a negotiation.

Michael Gregory, NSA, ASA, CVA, MBA, Qualified Mediator with the Minnesota Supreme Court is an international speaker that helps others resolve conflict, negotiate winning solutions and inspire leaders.  Mike services clients business to IRS, business to business and within businesses. On point resources are available online at and check out the blog. Mike may be contacted directly at or at (651) 633-5311. 

About the author

Mike Gregory is a professional speaker, an author, and a mediator. You may contact Mike directly at 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]