Emotions and Negotiation

Emotions and Negotiations

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by Susan Dunn

“Don’t ask your father the minute he walks in the door,” my Mom used to tell me. “Wait till he’s in a good mood. Let him unwind a little.”

Then some time later, she would alert me that “the good mood” had arrived, and it was time to ask him. It was a mystery to me, but gradually I began to pick up on what indicated a “bad mood” in my dad, and what indicated a “good mood,” and how to use it to my advantage.

Eventually I became adept at putting him in a good mood; like most girls, I learned to work my dad over pretty good, and at least some of the time I got what I wanted. At other times he would say, “That’s not going to work on me young lady.” Like playing “Hot Cold” it helped me refine my people skills, and be more subtle.

While it wasn’t always easy to judge “mood,” it was pretty easy to tell when Mom or Dad was angry and, like most kids, I learned to head for hills at such a time. Not only wasn’t it a good time to ask for anything, it wasn’t a good time to be around at all. If you want to win, you have to know when to fold them, as well as when to hold them. Most kids learn how to gauge the moods of their parents pretty well because it’s important to their survival, figuratively, if not literally.

Knowing when Mom’s in a bad mood and staying out of her way at those times makes life easier, and approaching her for something when she’s in a good mood makes it more probable you’ll get it. We also learn that we can sometimes wear a parent down when they’re tired and they’ll give in, and that sometimes kisses and compliments will work where reason and logic don’t. Kids are pretty good little negotiators, and the ones who read social cues the best, and are most attuned to the emotions of those around them, do the best.

So when we grow up and enter the work world as sophisticated adults does all this become irrelevant? Quite to the contrary. There are always people we want things from, just as there are people who want things from us, and while there’s a prevailing myth that business runs on logic, reason and analysis, it is about relationships and negotiations, and emotions quite often determine the outcome.

It’s an old adage that people do business with people they like and trust. However you define those words, and how you separate out the components, it is an emotional response, not an intellectual one.

Cognitive intelligence is important – knowing the facts, getting the figures, and doing the homework – but emotional intelligence can be the deciding factor. Whether you want a promotion, a million dollar contract, a new partner, information from someone, or their cooperation, your success depends upon how well you understand and manage the emotional force field around the situation.

My Mom was right. Studies show that people do react more favorably when they’re in a good mood, so timing is everything. Do you know how to tell when someone’s in a good mood? And what if they’re not? Do you know how to put someone in a good mood?

Great salespeople know how to bring the good mood with them. They arrive with a good story or positive anecdote, a gift, a joke, or even food. Their intuition, an EQ competency, tells them what will work on each person. Maurice E. Schweitzer, professor of operations and information management at Wharton, calls this “non-task communication.” He has researched this phenomenon, and says, “In negotiation, we have always known that non-task communication – discussion that’s not directly relevant to the negotiation process – is important for closing a deal.”

In recent research, Schweitzer and associates induced emotional states in subjects and found that angry people trusted the least, and happy people trusted the most, and sad people were in between. They found that “emotions which are irrelevant to the judgment task … influence trust judgments in predictable ways.”

“Predictable” is the key phrase here, because it gives us power. When we’re negotiating with someone, we want to control as many of the variables leading to a “yes” as possible.

Because decisions are not based solely on reason and logic, emotional intelligence is clearly important to success. There are two things for sure: there is never enough data, and the data is always ambiguous. Let’s say you have $100,000 to invest. Is real estate the best long-term producer, or is the stock market? It depends on who’s talking to you, what they’re selling, and what chart they show you. I’ve seen it “proven conclusively” both ways. And for each of you readers who silently mouthed “But it’s real estate, because …” there was another mouthing “stocks, because …”!

And who was at fault when the patient died on the surgery table? Was it the hospital, the internist, the surgeon, the anesthesiologist, the nurse, the manufacturer of the shunt, or the HMO? There will be an expert witness for and against each position.

We like to think we’re making a rational decision based on the facts, but studies show, and common sense affirms, that emotions play a role, and one that you can’t afford to ignore. How can developing your emotional intelligence help you succeed? Here are some examples:

· The savvy businessman across the table wears a mask to conceal his emotions so he’ll have the advantage in the negotiation. Can you read the telltale nonverbal signals? Some nonverbal reactions that are very informative, such as the Adam’s Apple Jump, are beyond conscious control.

· You must choose one of two candidates for the next head of regional sales and their ability to perform will make or break your company this year. Can you keep a clear head about their qualifications and expertise and not be swayed by the subtle and not-so-subtle maneuvers they perform to induce you to choose them?

· You’re a fundraiser and you know who you want to ask for the funds, and how you’re going to do it, but do you know when? Can you tell when they’re in the right frame of mind?

· Time has run out and you must go in right now and ask for the raise. You know your boss is angry because your associate just lost a contract/sad because her son just got turned down at Harvard. Do you know it’s important to change her mood, and do you know how to do it?

· He’s trying to sell you the car and you’ve had the best hour you’ve had for weeks. He’s made you laugh, he’s complimented you, and you’re feeling great. In other words, he’s a master at “non-task communication.” Are you aware of what’s going on emotionally? Are you able to hold the line on the good times and make a rational decision about this car and this price? Studies show that if you’re aware of the emotional factors you can manage around them.

You’ve got the degrees, the credentials and the experience. Is your emotional intelligence competitive?

Suggestions for Further Reading

Author: Susan Dunn, MA, The EQ Coach, http://www.susandunn.cc [email protected] . Coaching, Internet courses and ebooks around emotional intelligence for your personal and professional success. Coach Certification Program - fast, affordable, no-residency, training coaches worldwide. Email for free ezine.

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