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Emotional Negotiator

Brian Buck
© Scotwork NA

“ARE YOU KIDDING ME??” I was so mad. This was the third agreement I had come to with this potential business partner in the last six months. Just when I thought we had an agreement, they would come back and change the terms. It was infuriating. At this point I really wanted to walk away but I couldn’t because this joint venture was strategically important for both organizations and the cost were far too high to walk away. However, I felt like they were exploiting that fact and I was becoming more and more emotional. The more emotional I got, the more irrational I became. I had to detach emotionally and find a way around or this deal was going to hell in a hand basket.

There’s nothing wrong with being emotional during a negotiation. It’s going to happen. You might get really excited at the deal on the table or frustrated by the brick wall you keep hitting. Regardless, allowing your emotions to takeover and hamper your ability to make rational decisions under stress is where the emotional negotiator will get in trouble. This was happening to me in the situation above. Through that situation, I learned a few techniques that helped me deal with my own emotions at the negotiating table.

  1. Recognize the triggers. Be mindful of your triggers. I know when things don’t go my way, my usual first response is disappointment and sometimes anger depending on how much I really wanted something to happen. Regardless, I’m aware that “decision outcomes” can trigger my emotions. All of us have triggers that will take us into a more emotional state. Your triggers might be when you have to speak to authority, or seek approval from others, or deal with people you don’t like. The more aware you are, the more mindful you’ll be in those situations.
  1. When the emotions flow, it’s time to go. The best thing I can do when I start to feel my emotions amp up is to take a break. It’s like turning the heat down on a boiling pot. I find that when I allow time to come between my emotions and the situation, I become more rational. If I don’t do that I might say things I’ll regret, I’ll make compromised decisions, and I’ll get tunnel vision. I literally can no longer see other options. But if I give myself time, I can gain perspective and have a more thoughtful approach.
  1. Get a second opinion. Setting aside the mafia connotations and Godfather references, I like the idea of having a consigliere. Someone you trust that can provide you counsel and advice. When the emotional situation happens, step away and ask your consigliere for their perspective on your situation. You’ll be surprised how an emotional detached opinion can help calm your emotions and give you a better perspective on the situation.

So back to my joint venture situation and how I applied the above… as I said, I had come to agreement with the business partner on three separate occasions. Each time I thought the deal was done. We agreed to what we agreed to. We documented it in email and got confirmations on what we agreed to. I would have contracts drawn up. Then the business partner would come back and make a demand that changed the entire scope of what we were negotiating. By the third time I was over it. I was tired of going back and forth. I was so frustrated with the business partner that I was having a hard time even thinking how we’d work together once the deal was done. As I said, I was mad.

I could sense my hypothalamus engage (that part of the brain where “fight or flight” actions originate). I could feel my blood pressure rise, heart rate go up, and adrenaline start pumping. I was ready to fight! Not physically but my brain rapidly filled with words and phrases that surely would have felt good to say but ultimately would have killed the needed deal. So, I walked away. I simply said, “That’s new information that I need to process and take some time to think about. Let’s reconvene in a few days to discuss further.”

I remember walking out of the room taking deep breaths. It took me the rest of the day to really calm down. They had touched a nerve. Once I did calm down, I went to the best consigliere I have, my wife. She’s great because she’s extremely intelligent so she sees all the business angles and impacts, but she also knows me very well and knows how situations like this will push my buttons. She provided great counsel and insight. Building on her input I talked to a few others on my side to ensure I was not missing any other pertinent perspectives and points of view. Through the conversations, I found a path that was much more constructive than the “scorch the earth” approach I would have taken in the moment.

When we came back to the table, I was able to give the business partner most of what they asked for on terms that were acceptable to us along with consequences for any further changes. The deal was literally done and signed within a week of coming back to the table.

As I reflect on all the deals I’ve done throughout my career, there are a number of them that I wish I was far more aware of my emotional self when I was negotiating them. Even today, I have to stay acutely aware of my emotional state so I don’t succumb to those emotional impulses.


Get Ahold Of Those Emotions!

It’s hard to be effective when you are emotionally attached to a negotiation. Our negotiation experts can help you stay calm and navigate the emotional rollercoaster that can accompany a “must win” negotiation.

It doesn’t matter your experience level, if you have a stake in the outcome of your negotiation, you are susceptible to your emotions. Let us help you tame the emotions and enable your success at the negotiation table.Talk to one of our experts today.


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