Centre Européen de la Négociation - Negotiation Skills Training - Consulting & Coaching

The blog

Masked man in glasses expressing different emotions

Emotions are always information, even in negotiations

By Philippe Etienne, Training Consultant

The classic or adversarial negotiatorAnyone who equates negotiation with a game of poker is being consistent with his vision of negotiation: it plays poker face. I'm happy, I don't show anything, because you never know, I might be able to "scratch" a bit more. I'm not happy, or even frustrated or angry, but I don't show anything either, because in the "negotiation", I have to be strong and to show my emotion is to weaken myself!

This is one of the most common and damaging preconceived ideas in negotiation: the good negotiator must wear a mask. However, by not showing anything, by hiding or denying their emotions, these negotiators deprive themselves of a great deal of information and, in so doing, deprive their negotiating partners, to everyone's great detriment. In any negotiation, emotions are always an invaluable source of information. They are absolutely not "fake news"!

Emotions don't lie Emotions: fear, sadness, anger or joy, in their various gradations, send us messages about our state that it is important to take into account. An emotion is not an opinion; it cannot be discussed. For example, if you're afraid, no one can say to you: "Don't be afraid. But no, you're not afraid ". There are no arguments about emotions. They are simply indisputable.

In negotiation, locked in a war of positions, the parties can engage in an endless battle of arguments and counter-arguments to get their point of view across. On the other hand, if you or the person you are negotiating with takes care to take emotions into account and deal with them, you will quite naturally ask the other person: "What is your point of view? But why are you afraid ? ". In this way, communicating or questioning the emotions involved is likely to encourage stakeholders to behave differently.

In negotiation, emotions are at least as important as the interests at stake. In fact, they can help us to better understand and apprehend them.

The 4 phases of escalation triggered by emotions

  • First stage: tension It's easy to spot. The level of listening between the parties involved is limited. For example, they regularly interrupt each other or do not wait for answers to the questions they ask. Similarly, the level of trust between the parties is low, leading some to flee. There's only one explanation for all these signs of tension: a negotiation is underway, and that's how you recognise it. So it's normal! If the negotiators don't accept this point, then....
  • Then we move on to second stage of the escalation, incomprehension. There is confusion between the facts and the way they are interpreted. Some are indulging in unfortunate amalgams. The "broken record" phenomenon is underway: every point triggers an objection, " yes, but...", " yes, but... ", " yes...but ". By going round in circles, misunderstanding sets in. If no rephrasing is done, then...
  • We arrive at the third step in the emotional escalation: the war of positions. This is accompanied by a procession of various obstructions, muscular coalitions, blackmail, confusion and personal attacks. If the parties fail to name the stalemate, to put themselves " agree to disagree"to properly assess their " best alternative to a negotiated agreement "(MESORE or their plan B), ... it's almost certain that the negotiation is heading straight for deadlock. Conversely, all these questions are virtuous because they recreate avenues for dialogue and avoid climbing to the top of our emotional escalation...
  • We call this summit the "will to harm", where names are bandied about, where participants confuse the problem with the person, where people become aggressive and even act out! The objective is no longer to satisfy interests but to win a victory over the other. Ah, the tattered white shirts of Air France HR! In short, if you've reached this point, it's obviously urgent to stop and get some help. Whatever 'faults' you attribute to the other, it may be time to question your own strategy.


In conclusion

Negotiation is also an exercise in communication. How we say things is often at least as important as what we say. In this context, listening to and accepting our emotions, and listening to and recognising the other person's emotions, is a sine qua non if we are to move forward constructively.

To perform well in negotiation is also to perform well emotionally. Our emotions and those of the people we are negotiating with are key to the success of reasoned negotiation.

When you're negotiating, are you comfortable with your emotions?

See also

the European Negotiation Centre, quoted in Le Point.

Scroll to Top

By continuing your navigation, you accept the deposit of cookies intended for the proper functioning of the site