Is being emotional the enemy of smart negotiations?

How did you feel the last time you negotiated a starting salary? Or how about a pay raise? Bought a car? Or even a house? For most people, these are all stress-inducing activities.

When negotiating, especially when it involves money, our senses are heightened. We instinctively strive to protect what's ours or ensure we receive our due. Perhaps the anxiety that negotiations cause is a form of "fight or flight" due to anticipated confrontations.

Recently, I've had a front-row seat to my daughter and her fiance negotiating the deal for their first house. Having gone through the process several times, coupled with the wisdom that time brings, I've tried to coach her to keep her emotions from overriding rational decision-making. It brought into focus the intricate dance between emotion and logic when striking a deal. Such experiences underline the importance of harnessing emotions, channeling them to inform rather than dominate our decisions.

Early in my career, I attended a two-day negotiations workshop that illuminated the same principle. This workshop emphasized the art of crafting deals beneficial to all parties. Drawing from that and my own experiences, I'd like to share some tips on how to effectively use your emotions as a compass in negotiations.

1. Embrace emotions as signals.

Instead of dismissing emotions, see them as indicators, pointing you toward what truly matters in the negotiation. They can often unveil hidden priorities or concerns.

2. Cultivate emotional intelligence.

Understanding your emotional triggers and those of your counterparts can provide invaluable insights. Being emotionally attuned can reveal when to push, when to concede, and when to pivot in a discussion.

3. Use emotion to build rapport.

People are more likely to negotiate favorably with someone they like and trust. By expressing genuine emotion, such as enthusiasm about a shared goal, you can foster goodwill and mutual understanding.

4. Pause and regulate.

Before reacting, take a moment. This brief pause can be the difference between a deal and a debacle. Grounding techniques, such as deep breathing, can help you regain emotional balance during heated moments.

5. Empathy as a tool.

Demonstrating passion for mutually successful negotiations isn't just sentiment, it shows how personally invested someone is in the process. By actively demonstrating understanding and empathy toward the other party's concerns and aspirations, you're more likely to find common ground.

6. Reflect and learn.

After a negotiation, take a moment to reflect on your emotional journey. Were there moments of tension? When did you feel most at ease? By analyzing these emotional high and low points, you can better prepare for future negotiations.

Reflecting on my daughter's recent homebuying experience, I'm reminded of the emotional highs and lows negotiations often bring. It's like being in a tug-of-war, where instinct pulls one way and reason another. However, the key to successful negotiation isn't about stifling emotions but integrating them with thoughtful analysis. Emotions act as markers, highlighting what truly matters.

So, whether you're discussing a salary, purchasing a car, or watching a loved one traverse their challenges, it's crucial to realize that emotions and logic complement, rather than contradict, each other.

• Lou Simon is the Principal/Founder of Simon/Myers, a marketing agency with offices in Wheaton and Chicago.

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