Respect Emotions in Negotiation

Negotiation is one of the most common and constructive ways of dealing with conflict. It can be defined as the joint decision making between interdependent individuals aimed at resolving a perceived divergence of interests (Pietroni et al., 2008). Negotiation is a part of our life and we negotiate every now and then, consciously or subconsciously, for creating value and/or claiming value. We negotiate in an informal way with our friends and family or we take a formal approach to negotiation in a work environment which IMG_3704includes business deals, dispute settlement, conflict resolution etc. But wherever we negotiate or whenever we negotiate, just like any other social interaction emotions are inherent to negotiation. Negotiations involve people and people are indispensable from emotions. The things that people care about are not just the outcomes but also respect, power and identity which are bound to incite strong emotions.

As an emotion emerges, it entails coordinated changes in physiology, motor readiness, behaviour, cognition, and subjective experience. Emotional reactions emerge in response to perceived or actual alterations in the person’s environment (Mayer et al., 2007). Emotions intertwine with rational thoughts to make us human. Reasons cannot easily operate without feelings, or vice versa. We need to understand, channel and learn from our emotions in order to adapt to the situation at hand and engage others successfully. The key to a successful deal most often lies not in technical details, or even in price, but in the proper treatment of the emotion and psychological motivations that drive the buyer or the seller (Garai and Pravda, 1993). Even when the economies or the strategies are right, a transaction can break down if critical personal concerns are not recognized and addressed (Garai and Pravda, 1993). Being emotionally prepared is as important as any other aspect of the negotiation planning.

Effect of Emotions on Negotiation

In Greek myth, many of the ills that plagued mankind were creatures of emotion, such as revenge, spite, and envy. Released by the goddess Pandora, they sought to torment the world (MacDonald and Matthew, 2008). To be able to use emotion as a weapon in negotiation, we must first understand the effect of emotions on negotiation. Acknowledging the critical role emotions can play in the negotiation, more and more studies are focussing on emotive other than cognitive aspect of the negotiation.

Both cognitive and emotional approaches to negotiation have highlighted not only outcomes related to the negotiable items on the table, but also outcomes related to the social relationship between the parties at table (Kopelman et al., 2006). Effect of emotions on negotiation can be studied as intrapersonal effect of emotions on a negotiator and interpersonal effect of emotions on other negotiators around the table. Various models such as affect-as information model, affect-priming models, affect infusion model etc. have been developed guiding the research on intrapersonal effect and various models such as motivated information processing model, social information model, actor-partner independence model etc. have been developed guiding research on interpersonal effect.

Intrapersonal effects of emotions in negotiation is the influence of a negotiator’s emotional state on his or her own behaviour (Van Kleef et al.) Studies have shown quite consistently that negotiators experiencing positive affect tend to be more cooperative and conciliatory, whereas negotiators in a negative affective state tend to be more competitive and reluctant to make concessions. Positive affect of emotions has shown to increase concession making, stimulate creative problem solving, increase preferences for cooperation, reduce the use of contentious tactics, and increase the use of cooperative strategies. Conversely, negative affect has been shown to decrease initial offers, decrease joint gains, promote the rejection of ultimatum offers, increase use of competitive strategies and decrease desire to work together in future (Van Kleef et al.).

Negotiation is a complex process which demands high level of attentiveness and awareness of the environment. Emotional effects of a negotiator are not only intrapersonal but also interpersonal that is our emotions not only influence us but also people whom we are interacting with. Negotiation is a social phenomenon whereby emotions of one negotiator not only affect themselves but also their counterparts (Van Kleef et al.). Negotiators use their opponent’s emotions to infer the location of his or her limits and subsequently used this information to make a counteroffer (Van Kleef et al.). In other words, negotiators who are confronted with an angry opponent estimate the opponent’s limit to be high, and to avoid costly impasse, they place low demands and make the large concessions. Conversely, negotiators with a happy opponent, judge the opponent’s limit to be low, feel no need to concede to avoid impasse, and accordingly place high demands and make small concessions. But anger is considered to be a negative emotion and negative emotions are highly contagious that they can anger the opposite party resulting in an impasse.

Disadvantages of communicating anger in a negotiation could be that the negotiator may be perceived with a negative personality, may anger the counterpart and/or negatively affect the future relationship. But communicating anger can have positive affects financially with the angry party claiming higher concessions. Studies by Beest et al. (2008), revealed that communicating anger has profound impact on multiparty negotiation and may trigger negative impressions in multiparty negotiation. But if the parties are forced to include an angry counterpart then the angry party tends to claim higher value than others.

Positive emotions lead to better cognitive thinking and result in better results whereas negative emotions influence the parties to focus on distributive approach resulting in one party gaining more than the other or reach an impasse.  Negotiations are best when they are integrative and result in added value instead of a fixed pie approach. Fixed –pie perceptions lead negotiators to engage in distributive negotiation[i] and to forego possibilities of an integrative negotiation[ii], typically resulting in sub-optimal agreements (De Dreu, 2003). But there may be some instances where fixed pie is an actuality and distributive bargaining is the most appropriate approach to take. In these negotiations strategic display of anger can yield better results for the party expressing anger.

The effect of emotions in negotiation cannot be generalised but is influenced by various other factors

Effect of Power

Negotiation parties often differ in terms of power, and power differences exert an important influence on the way in which negotiation processes develop and conclude (Van Kleef et al.). The effect emotions have on a negotiation depends on the power level of the parties involved in the negotiation. The party with a higher power will be more expressive of their emotions and less or not affected by the emotions of the counterpart. This resonates with the theory that negotiators with higher power are found to be more demanding and less conceding since their BATNA[iii] is relatively stronger.

Effect of Epistemic Motivation[iv]

The effectiveness of the use of emotional deception as a strategic ploy depends on whether the target of the influence attempt is motivated to think about the implications of the other’s emotions for his or her goal attainment (Van Kleef et al.). Negotiators’ tendency to concede more to an angry opponent than to a happy one is moderated by individual differences in epistemic motivation. The epistemic motivation is another factor that governs the extent to which emotions play a role in negotiation.  The higher the epistemic motivation the more the parties will be willing to achieve an outcome. Hence, the parties will be more receptive to emotions.

Whether individuals will engage in a systematic and thorough information processing depends on their epistemic motivation – the desire to develop and maintain a rich and accurate understanding of the world, including negotiation task (Van Kleef et al.). Epistemic motivation depends upon need for cognitive closure, attractiveness, environmental noise, mental fatigue, time pressure.

Effect of Emotional Transition

In a negotiation, a party can maintain a steady state emotion of being happy or angry throughout the negotiation or transition from a happy to angry or angry to happy emotional stage. The transition from happy to angry has been found to be the most effective where the negotiator started with a happy emotion transitioning to angry emotion (Filipowicz et al.).

Managing Emotions in Negotiation

History is riddled with instances where emotions overpowered reasoning. In contrast to the historically dominant view of emotions as a negative influence in human behaviour, recent research in neuroscience and psychology has highlighted the positive roles played by emotions in decision making (Shiv et al., 2005). The automatic emotions triggered by a given situation help the normal decision-making process by narrowing down the options for action, either by discarding those that are dangerous or by endorsing those that are advantageous (Shiv et al., 2005). This process can be lifesaving in certain events but when it comes to negotiation, relying on automatic emotive triggering can lead to damaging results. Here, we must inhibit the trigger and take a cognitive approach with emotions being used strategically. Emotional Intelligence (EI) [v] will enable us to accurately perceive and express emotion in the self, recognize and appraise the emotion in others, regulate emotion in the self, and use emotions to facilitate performance by guiding them towards constructive activities and personal performance.

Before walking into a negotiation, every negotiator must assess and accept the emotional complexity of the negotiation. They should follow the six-step warm-up exercise suggested by Kimberlyn Leary (2013) to emotionally prepare themselves for negotiation.

Strategic Control of Emotions

People sometimes are unable to control the emotions sparked by a negotiation. More often than not they end up conceding major concessions to the opposite party or the negotiation fails to materialize. The two most intense emotions that confront negotiators are fear and anger (Adler et al., 1998). Anger and fear in negotiations can be good and bad. The emotions in themselves are not negative; they affect us negatively if we let the emotions control us in situations which also demand certain level of rationalisation, whereas if we are aware of our emotional state, control it and use it for our own benefit, results can be positive. Adler et al. (1998) have suggested following ways to successfully deal with anger and fear arising in conflict situation:


·         The critical need for self-awareness

·         Determine situations that trigger inappropriate anger

·         Decide whether to display anger

·         Behavioural techniques to reduce anger like calling for a temporary break

·         Express anger and disappointment affectively

·         Avoid “negotiators bias”

·         Try to promote trust


·         Defuse beated emotional buildup

·         Assess the significance of angry displays

·         Address an opponent’s anger

·         Respond to anger in strategic ways

·         Help an angry opponent save face

·         Involve a mediator where we anticipate anger


·         Know your warning signs

·         Understand that fear is often a normal reaction

·         Determine how visibly you display fear

·         Determine situations that trigger fear

·         Behavioural techniques to reduce feelings of fear like thinking about a positive thought from the past

·         Careful preparation reduces fear (refer to (Kimberlyn Leary, 2013))

·         Act confident even if you do not feel so

·         Avoid quick agreements motivated by fear

·         Try to reduce stress level by exercising etc.


·         Monitor all negotiations for emotional build-ups

·         Show flexibility in how we react to your opponent’s fear

·         Where helpful, share your fears and anxieties with your opponent

·         Help your fearful opponents save face

Emotions as Strategic Information

Negotiators must use the information about the other’s emotion to design their own negotiation strategy. When negotiators lack information about counter parties, they bend towards distributive negotiation instead of an integrative negotiation (assuming win-win situation is a possibility). Studies by Paul Ekman, helps us understand the basic emotions and universal language of facial expressions. The study can be very helpful in face-to-face negotiation (assuming counterparts do not maintain a poker face[vi]) which is the most common setting especially for high level negotiations, dispute settlements and conflict resolutions.

Even though negotiators may not explicitly and deliberately inform others about the structure of their preferences and payoffs, an emotionally intelligent negotiator may extract this information from other’s emotional displays. Accurate recognition of particular patterns of emotional expression may help negotiators to revise their fixed-pie perceptions and discover mutually satisfying win-win agreements (Pietroni et al., 2008). For example, if a counterpart expresses anger in response to a particular issue, the focal negotiator can infer from the emotion that the issue is of high importance to the counterpart, and vice-versa. Hence, by gaining information about the high importance and low importance issue, the negotiators can work towards an integrative agreement.

Strategic Display of Emotions

Both cognitive and emotional approaches to negotiation have highlighted not only outcomes related to the negotiable items on table, but also outcomes related to the social relationship between the parties at table(Kopelman et al., 2006).  Emotions are deliberate behavioural strategy that is available to the negotiator. Strategic display of emotions refers to emotions intentionally expressed by the focal negotiator to attain a desired outcome. The displayed emotions may convey information and may influence strategic information processing or it may pursue the counterparty to act in a different way they would not have acted otherwise. This strategic display of emotions can be achieved by deep acting where internally experienced and externally displayed emotions are aligned or surface acting where displayed emotions are purely strategic and are at odds with internal experience. In his research (Kopelman et al., 2006), has shown the effects of strategically using positive or negative emotions or maintaining neutral emotion. His study resonates with the effects discussed above.


We have discussed the powerful role emotions play in the negotiation and how emotions can be manipulated and used as a weapon in tough negotiations. Strategically using emotions can be argued to be an unethical approach to a negotiation. But I feel that it is an art that negotiators develop to achieve better outcomes and since the emotions are used under a controlled setting the rationale is never lost.  So, instead of accepting the consequences of uncontrolled real emotions, the approach of gaining strategic information from emotions and using emotions strategically are tools which should be cognitively practiced by the negotiators.

Two goals primary in negotiation situations are those of creating value and claiming value. We talk about creating value in a negotiation but at the same time we must stress upon effectively claiming that additional value. Effective negotiation depends on the ability of parties to manage both the integrative and distributive component  of the task (Kumar, 1997).  Many of the abilities within emotional intelligence that assist negotiators in creating joint value might also assist in claiming individual value for themselves (Foo et al.).  Hence, negotiators must work on raising their Emotional Intelligence.  A research by Peter Salovay (2002) shows us how we can improve Emotional Intelligence.

Still a lot needs to be done in assessing the role of emotions in different scenarios.  The studies and information on which this essay is based has been conducted in specific settings in an experimental environment with limitations, hence the results cannot be generalised but helps us in getting a fair idea of the role emotions play in negotiations. One important limitation in the studies on effect of emotions on negotiation is that they do not take into account the social or cultural diversity of the experimental group which is another important indicator in this area. Cross-cultural negotiations are very important in today’s globalised environment. Hence, a negotiator should work on developing his or her Cultural Intelligence (CQ)[vii].

[i] Distributive negotiation is also sometimes called positional or hard-bargaining negotiation. It tends to approach negotiation on the model of haggling in a market. In a distributive negotiation, each side often adopts an extreme position, knowing that it will not be accepted, and then employs a combination of guile, bluffing, and brinksmanship in order to cede as little as possible before reaching a deal. Distributive bargainers conceive of negotiation as a process of distributing a fixed amount of value. BRAZEAL, G. 2009. Against Gridlock: The Viability of Interest-Based Legislative Negotiation. Harvard Law & Policy Review (Online), 3, 1..


[ii] Integrative negotiation is also sometimes called interest-based or principled negotiation. It is a set of techniques that attempts to improve the quality and likelihood of negotiated agreement by providing an alternative to traditional distributive negotiation techniques. While distributive negotiation assumes there is a fixed amount of value (a “fixed pie”) to be divided between the parties, integrative negotiation often attempts to create value in the course of the negotiation (“expand the pie”). It focuses on the underlying interests of the parties rather than their arbitrary starting positions, approaches negotiation as a shared problem rather than a personalized battle, and insists upon adherence to objective, principled criteria as the basis for agreement. . Ibid.


[iii] Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement


[iv] Epistemic Motivation can be defined as the desire to develop and maintain a rich and accurate understanding of the world, including the negotiation task. DE DREU, C. K. W., CARNEVALE, P. J., DE DREU, C. K. W. & CARNEVALE, P. J. 2003. Motivational bases of information processing and strategy in conflict and negotiation. ADVANCES IN EXPERIMENTAL SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY, VOL 35, 35, 235-291.


[v] Emotional intelligence concerns the ability to carry out accurate reasoning about emotions and the ability to use emotions and emotional knowledge to enhance thought. MAYER, J. D., ROBERTS, R. D. & BARSADE, S. G. 2007. Human Abilities: Emotional Intelligence. Annual Review of Psychology, 59, 507-536.


[vi] A face on a person that shows no emotion, often called poker face because in the game of poker it would be foolish to show any emotional traits that might screw the game for you.(


[vii] Cultural Intelligence is defined as an individual’s capability to adapt effectively to situations of cultural diversity. IMAI, L. & GELFAND, M. J. 2010. The culturally intelligent negotiator: The impact of cultural intelligence (CQ) on negotiation sequences and outcomes. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 112, 83-98.

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