The effect of emotion on negotiations

Seminar Paper, 2014

18 Pages, Grade: 1,3


Table of contents

List of Figures

1. Introduction
1.1. Structure of the paper

2. Creating and influencing the negotiation environment
2.1. Personality traits
2.2. Emotional intelligence
2.3. Emotional trigger points

3. Strategic application of emotions in negotiations
3.1. Exploitative manipulation through expressing negative emotions
3.2. Proactive stimulation of positive emotions
3.3. Techniques to diminish strong negative emotions
3.3.1. Taking a break
3.3.2. Naming – Signalizing the recognition of the move
3.3.3. Adjourn – Putting the concern aside, refocusing on the problem

4. Summary and Outlook



List of Figures

Figure 1: The Five Core Concerns

1. Introduction

“People negotiate every day for different purposes, and each day they experience emotions, both positive and negative. When negotiating formally or informally, people often don’t know how to handle these ever-present emotions - their own or those of the other person.” (Fisher & Shapiro, 2005) A big risk is that negotiations often create negative emotions and can become more powerful than present facts and figures. These emotions can change the primarily course and hence will determine the negotiation outcome. A therefore widely shared notion about effective negotiation behavior implies to not get emotional. Emotions in negotiations are viewed as loss of rational thinking. Showing them makes a person weak and vulnerable. But even though people can suppress emotions, the emotional experience remains. Hence a cognitive arousal takes place and higher brain activity is needed (Gross, 2002).

Against folk wisdom, the following paper will discuss (1) how emotional awareness can affect the negotiation environment and (2) how emotions can positively enhance the negotiation outcome.

1.1. Structure of the paper

In the first part of the paper factors influencing the negotiation environment will be identified. A short excursion into discoveries from evolutionary research explains the connection between reactions and emotions. An overview of personal prerequisites and what approaches exist in order to improve the own ability in regards to better identify emotions in ones self and in others are presented.

Chapter three focuses on different strategies of how to apply emotions to in order to enhance the negotiation outcome. Different tactics, leading to either value enhancement for only one party or to value enhancement for both parties, are discussed. This part will be followed by practical instructions and easy to use techniques applicable during the negotiation process. Finally, there will be a summery including an outlook, as well limitations of the paper.

2. Creating and influencing the negotiation environment

A negotiation process requires not only problem solving skills but also more general communication skills. This includes the management of emotions (Martinovski, Traum, & Marsella, 2007). Hence, a negotiation can be successful in two different ways. Shapiro (2002) calls these two categories: instrumental satisfaction and affective satisfaction.

Instrumental satisfaction focuses on the “extent to which parties are able to work efficiently and effectively to agree on substantive commitments to which they aspire” (Shapiro, 2000). This means, a negotiation that ends with positive feelings but no solution about the actual topic, is an instrumental failure. To achieve this kind of objective, more analytical problem solving skills are necessary (Martinovski, Traum, & Marsella, 2007). However, the focus of this essay lies on the emotional aspect in negotiations. Therefore, the topic instrumental satisfaction is not being evaluated in this paper.

“Affective satisfaction is one’s general level of satisfaction with the emotions experienced during the negotiation” (Shapiro, 2000). It focuses on the feeling about ones feelings: Are the parties satisfied with the emotional experience? Have positive or negative emotions been triggered during the negotiation? To reach this goal, the ability to manage emotions is needed.

As a result of evolution, the human brain quickly distinguishes between friend and enemy. In a more relaxed and cheerful mood the brain is not on the alert and therefore opens up for new ideas (Bittner & Schwarz, 2010). In other words, positive emotions tend to tell people what they should do and negative emotions tend to tell people, what they should better not do. For a negotiation process the aim should be to create a ‘feel-good’ atmosphere. Because a person who experiences positive emotions, who feels comfortable and who has a ‘good feeling’ tends to be more agreeable, more open-minded and hence is more likely in the stage of finding an agreement and closing a deal.

Creating a ‘feel-good’ atmosphere tends to be easier for some people and harder for others. In the following chapter, prerequisites given through personality and emotional intelligence as well as approaches of how to improve the own abilities through analyzing emotional trigger points will be presented.

2.1. Personality traits

Psychological and personal factors determine actions and therefore influence the probability of a negotiation initiation or the personal skills and style to negotiate. Every person is different, therefore there are as many identities and personalities as there are people. Nevertheless, researchers synthesized a clear definition of personality traits called the Big Five. The Big Five dimensions are 1) extraversion, 2) emotional stability, 3) agreeableness, 4) conscientiousness and 5) openness to experience (Baldwin, Bommer, Rubin, 2008). A person’s personality can be hierarchically organized within the five dimensions.

For the negotiation behavior this means that some people have better prerequisites than others. A successful salesperson for example is often high on extraversion and emotional stability (Baldwin, Bommer, Rubin, 2008). However, it is possible to learn to mimic the behaviors associated with a particular trait. For example: being more agreeable and demonstrating extraversion trough smiling and speaking in a soothing but precise voice to arouse a warmer feeling towards the other party. This can help people to establish a positive atmosphere during a negotiation and therefore reach affective satisfaction.

2.2. Emotional intelligence

As described above, people not only have different personalities, they also differ in their ability to effectively deal with emotional states. Researchers found out that the ability to manage emotions is getting more and more important to job success (Ashkanasy & Daus, 2005) and is possible to train. This kind of emotional ability, often called emotional intelligence, refer to “the ability to accurately identify emotions (in oneself and others) as well as understand and manage those emotions successfully.” (Baldwin, Bommer, Rubin, 2008).

Emotional intelligence is considered to be an important negotiation skill. People who are emotional intelligent create safe, functional and relieving relations within their family, friends and work. They mostly see relations as a link and not as a bond. An important characteristic is that they are able to recognize others’ feelings and naturally know how to handle them. On the other way round, they can protect themselves from ‘bad’ expressions, feeling responsible for faults of others or from feeling guilty (Ashkanasy & Daus, 2005). This makes a person more self-assured and gives the other party the possibility to have confidence in his/her proposal.

One key feature of emotional intelligence is empathy (Toris, 1994; Martinovski, Traum & Marsella, 2007). Empathy is defined as “the capacity to take the role of the other and to adopt alternative perspectives vis-à-vis oneself” (Mead, 1997). It is “identified with interactive behavior such as empathic listening, openness, paraphrasing and reflection” (Martinovski, Traum & Marsella, 2007).

The course of a negotiation is influenced by the ability or skill of the negotiation parties of giving and accepting empathy. If empathy is being rejected – because of strategic reasons or because of inability – the negotiation gets more difficult. This means the goal of reaching affective satisfaction gets more complicated. A linguistically study of the rejection of empathy in negotiations from Martinovski, Traum, and Marsella (2007) found out that rejecting empathy creates an uncomfortable atmosphere and is associated with lack of trust, a lower level of desire to engage in negotiation and/or with desire to gain control over the negotiation conditions.

To sum it up, people with a high standard of emotional intelligence will be able to adequately react on and proactively stimulate the other party’s feelings and will therefore be able to create a positive negotiation atmosphere.

2.3. Emotional trigger points

The natural given ability of handling emotions some people are gifted with, can be learned through getting an understanding of how and by what emotions are triggered.

Adler, Rosen and Silverstein (1998) found out that fear and anger are the two negative emotions that affect negotiations most often and most dramatically. Fear can appear by the feeling of being unprepared, being less powerful than the negotiation counterpart, the feeling of not being able to adequately deal with the opponent, or by having a poor BATNA (best alternative to a negotiated agreement). There is even the effect of suffering from fear of fear, which means people fear the physical symptoms of fear (Fromm, 2008). For example immobility or paralysis, increase in blood pressure, pulse rate or perspiration.

Anger can be triggered by violating rules or assumptions and by threats to ones personality or identity (Gray, 2003). Other triggers can include “disregard for relationships, misrepresentation, excessive demands, the illegitimate exercise of another’s authority, and challenges to a person’s authority” (Fromm, 2008). Especially threats to ones identity can easily evoke negative emotions, even if the person affected is unaware of the cause. Threats to ones identity raise intrinsic questions such as “Am I competent? Am I a good person? Am I fair?” and can therefore disrupt the picture of who someone thinks he/she is. Result of anger can be a change in behavior including negotiating away from the initial desired outcome and towards hurting the other person who arises the anger (Daly, 1991).

In her research paper, Fromm (2008) describes that strong negative emotions can also be triggered by undesirable traits we see in others that we believe are not part of us. She calls these characteristics our shadow. Most people are blind to their shadow and strongly react to their undesirable characteristics in others. For negotiations, this means that arising shadow dynamics can impede the whole process because they initiate negative emotions and serve as a “hot button” for the negotiation counterparty to push (Fromm, 2008). People who are consistently overreacting to a particular behavior might be triggered by their shadow.

Another trigger point by Fromm (2008) is called resemblance trigger. She describes that a negative reaction to an unknown negotiation counterpart can be based on his or her resemblance to a person who affected the negotiator emotionally in the past. This trigger point is especially hard to identify.

During the preparation phase for a negotiation the described tripper points can be used to identify possible arousing emotions that can influence the negotiators behavior and the negotiation environment (Fromm, 2008). For further possible influencing factors see appendix 1.

3. Strategic application of emotions in negotiations

As described in the second chapter, knowing what kind of personality traits someone carries and how to identify arising emotions is an important skill to change the negotiation outcome towards the own interests or towards conjoint interests. But sometimes recognizing emotions is not enough to control the behavior. The emotional system in the human brain sometimes works faster and let people act before they are even aware of their emotional state. The following chapter will discuss different strategies on how to enhance the negotiation outcome through the use of negative and positive emotions and will introduce some easy to use techniques.

3.1. Exploitative manipulation through expressing negative emotions

The two negative emotions described in the forgoing chapter – fear and anger – can be used to influence the other party. For example one party can intimidate the other party to get hidden information or to make it settle on a different negation outcome as originally planned.

Sinaceur and Tiedens (2006) found out that negotiators expressing anger claim more value compared to negotiators expressing no emotion, when the counterpart perceives poor alternatives. If the counterpart perceives the alternatives as more attractive, the effect of anger expression does not affect the person or, in two third of the cases, leads to an impasse of the negotiation. But arousing negative emotions in order to unequally change the negotiation outcome for one party involves certain risks. It can, for example, damage the long-term relationship of parties evolved, which means the negotiation partner receiving the anger expressions could avoid future negotiations (Axelrod, 1984; Sinaceur &Tiedens (2006). Moreover if the expressions are caught as being a fraud, the person looses its credibility and reliability for further cooperation, especially if the manipulation is exposed repeatedly. In a marketing context, this could also lead to negative word-of-mouth. Another problem could arise if the tactic does not lead to the desired outcome. It is possible that the person being influenced gets annoyed by the other party and stops the negotiation completely (Shapiro, 2002).

For using this kind of strategy, it is important to distinguish between expressing negative emotions and experiencing negative emotions. This means the person applying the strategy should only express emotions but not experience them. Experiencing them would stimulate cognitive arousal and reduce clear thinking of the person using the strategy itself (Fromm, 2008). Consequently, the expression of negative emotions, such as anger, is a powerful strategy for claiming value for one party - but only suited for relatively short single-shot negotiations with a fixed-pie perception. Additionally, this confirms the importance of being aware of the emotional state; otherwise the negotiation will take place under the influence of emotions to the disadvantage of the weaker negotiator.

3.2. Proactive stimulation of positive emotions

To create a positive negotiation environment, Fisher and Shapiro (2005) assert two essential points: it is important to anticipate that strong negative emotions may arise and that it is important to proactively stimulate positive emotions in a negotiation. Negative emotions can be anticipated and in most of the times minimized through addressing five core concerns: appreciation, affiliation, autonomy, status and role (Fisher & Shapiro, 2005). The negotiation outcome will be improved when both negotiation parties feel that their main concerns are met. This means that a positive environment is created wherein both parties act respectfully and appreciative towards the behavior and interests, as well as accepting the autonomy of the negotiation counterpart. Fisher and Shapiro suggest “that the core concerns be used as a lens to understand the emotions of each side and as a lever to stimulate positive emotions” (Fisher & Shapiro, 2005).

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Figure 1: The Five Core Concerns (Fisher & Sharpiro, 2005)

If these five core concerns are violated, negative emotions arise automatically. Hence, people do not react consciously anymore but unconsciously. Support for this theory comes as well from linguistically studies, which for example assert that telling people what they should do or should not do, undermining their autonomy, triggers emotions ­– mostly anger (Schroth, Bain-Chekal & Caldwell, 2006; Martinovski, Traum & Marsella, 2007).

To successfully negotiate, the participants should take some time during the negotiation planning stage to think about how they can address the above-described five core concerns. Creating some precast phrases that can be used during the negotiation can be a helpful tool. Fisher and Shapiro (2005) describe an unprepared negotiation as working in a hospital’s emergency department without any processes to follow when a group of new patients arrive. Finding the own best working and easiest to use tool should not only be part of the direct preparation phase for an upcoming negotiation, it should be something to experiment with during everyday life, especially during unpleasant conversations.

As described in chapter two, research shows that positive emotions on the one hand side results in a greater concession making and higher agreeableness of all participants and on the other hand side decreases the use of contentious tactics (Fisher & Shapiro, 2005). Moreover different findings confirm that a positive negotiation environment tend to stimulate cooperative and conciliatory behavior, and creates a more creative atmosphere (Shapiro, 2000; Schroth, Bain-Chekal & Caldwell, 2006). This in the end leads to “a higher joint gain on integrative negotiation tasks” (Fromm, 2008) and helps the negotiators to reach affective satisfaction.


Excerpt out of 18 pages


The effect of emotion on negotiations
Catholic University Eichstätt-Ingolstadt  (WFI School of Management)
Effective Meetings and Negotiations
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
File size
538 KB
Meetings, Verhandlungen, Negotiations, negotiation behavior
Quote paper
Maximiliane Gläsle (Author), 2014, The effect of emotion on negotiations, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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