Emotions in negotiations

How to deal with fear, anger and envy

Essay 2008 11 Pages

Business economics - Miscellaneous



1 Introduction

2 Fear
2.1 Cognitive Appraisal

3 Anger
3.1 Implications
3.1.1 Threats

4 Envy
4.1 Implications

5 A Universal Approach: The EASI Model
5.1 Implications

1 Introduction

With day-to-day meetings and constant communication, the modern business world is changing the ways of interpersonal interaction. Especially in flat hierarchies, negotiations serve an important role in resolving conflict situations and has become a valuable instrument both for managerial and opera- tional decision-making within a corporation. Externally, recurring negotiations with businesspeople around the globe has become a standard. Though negotiation skills are highly needed, many people rely on their experience from former negotiations and never have thought of using certain strategies or methods. Few may have read books on strategies in negotiations and apply them in real nego- tiating events such as compensation bargaining, promotions or business meetings. It is becoming increasingly important to be able to adapt to various negotiation settings, such as differing power among participants, external and internal negotiations and short- or long-term negotiations as well. A good negotiator knows what patterns of behavior to induce in others by using emotions as a tool to reach his goal. While there are some promising approaches, which can help to realize increased joint gains, many exclude emotions as an important way of carrying information. You may even find advice (esp. in the pre-1990s) proposing to avoid the use of emotions, either intrapersonal or interpersonal. The lack of research in this field has been covered since then and is progressing at a high pace. The following essay introduces the most prevalent and important emotions in negotia- tions and gives useful tips on how to capitalize on both the negative and positive effects of emotions such as fear, anger and envy. This is done both on an intrapersonal as well as an interpersonal level. Ultimately, the EASI model is presented, which provides a universal approach for strategies and tactics regarding emotions which are not necessarily covered here, but also play an important role in negotiations.

2 Fear

Fear is the emotional response to danger, both tangible and realistic. In negotiations, fear occurs either during the process itself or prior to it. It manifests itself in stress, which is why most people tend to avoid social interactions like negotiations, especially when there is an apparent asymmetry in bargaining power or the type of the negotiation is to aim for ’independent advantage’ - when every participant tries to reach his goals, no matter what the consequences for the other parties might be - rather than to try to reach an agreement or compromise.

In business, many situations come to mind when thinking of fear-driven negotiations: fear of losing the job, fear of getting a wage-cut, fear of not being able to jump in one’s career - almost everybody was in these situations at one point in his life. While some people would say that they aren’t feeling any fear, the underlying processes are at least very similar to what the term ’fear’ implies. This is because the employee negotiates on his own behalf, while the superior is often bargaining as an agent. Research has shown (K. O’Connor, J.A. Arnold, 2006) that negotiating on one’s one behalf is evaluated as being significantly more stressful than other types of social interactions (especially debating and bargaining as an agent). The cause for a negotiation for being regarded as an especially stressful activity is the ambivalence of whether the negotiator anticipates the bargaining to be a threat or a challenge. The expection of a threat impedes the individual’s performance as he or she will be more willing to make concessions to his or her opponent, while the appraisal of a challenge leads to competitive or cooperative behavior, thus increasing the negotiator’s performance and result. The exact processes and implications of this hypothesis are covered in the next paragraph.

2.1 Cognitive Appraisal

K. O’Connor and J.A. Arnold introduce the concept of ’cognitive appraisal’ in their research, hy- pothesizing that the negotiator’s judgement of the demands of the situation would directly induce the performance of the negotiator. Thus a negotiation is regarded as a threat when the participant feels that he doesn’t have the resources making him capable of having a stand in the situation, re- gardless of the real conditions of the negotiation. This is leading to the use of tactics which impede a beneficial outcome - especially in negotiations with integrative potential. The effects of the threat appraisal have nothing to do with the individual ’negotiation skill’, but trigger a certain pattern of intentions and motives which are counteracting the way an integrative negotiation is supposed to work. This way, individuals who regarded a negotiation as a threat systematically found themselves to have scored a lower result than they could have, derived from their resources and positions.

On the other hand, those who regarded the negotiation as a challenge, based on their impression of ’having the leverage’ to score a good result, performed particularly well in negotiations that demanded creativity and cooperation - negotiations with integrative patterns. In negotiations with distributive character, the challenge appraisal couldn’t help to improve the performance beyond the level of those who regarded the negotiation as a threat. This is in line with the hypothesis that the outcome of the negotiations wasn’t linked with one’s ability to be a better negotiator, but with the appraisal of the situation as a threat or a challenge.

With this knowledge, it is easy to lay out a strategy to overcome the negative effects of appraising a negotiation as a threat. First of all, it is reasonable to try to research on the character of the negotiation - if you are in for a mutual agreement, it is important to make yourself aware of the power and the tools you have to win the other party over. Eventually, you will reach better agreements. When you are regarding a negotiation as a threat, it is even more important to break the vicious circle of being discouraged and eventually scoring lower. Try to make as little concessions as possible and think of alternatives you have.

3 Anger

Anger is yet another important emotion in conflict situations such as negotiations. It can provoke both competitive or cooperative behavior. G. A. Van Kleef & S. Côté (2006) make the proposition that the display of anger can either be rewarding or disadvantageous, depending on the distribution of power among negotiators and the appropriateness of their anger expression. In business, many ’compromises’ agreed upon in negotiations leave one or more of the participants disappointed or even angry.

Reasons for those emotions may lie in a violation of some communication standard between parties, e.g. an unusually aggressive answer or stubborn adherence to one’s position, without the chance of giving in. Reactions to these actions are often ambiguous: Participants who are opposed by an angry opponent often generate a negative impression and feel the need for retaliation, resulting in either an inefficient agreement or no compromise at all. On the other hand, individuals who are intimidated by their adversary’s apparent fury tend to concede to their angry counterpart, hoping to reach a settlement for the unpleasant situation, reaching decreased results.

This is also an issue in intercultural negotiations, when one party is not aware of the cultural customs regarding the display of emotions. However, an universal approach should help to overcome these situations, as the underlying principles are roughly the same and can be applied by both parties.



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Catholic University Eichstätt-Ingolstadt
Emotions Negotiations




Title: Emotions in negotiations