It’s easy to ask for something when we feel fairly confident of getting it. But many of us dread asking for things from certain people or things we think the other person won’t agree to. This discomfort is normal but experts agree that emotions, including anxiety and anger, can work against you when negotiating.
But whether it’s a raise, a new project, a lower price from your vendor or more flexible work hours, negotiations won’t start until you ask … and hear that first “no.”
If you ask for something and the other person says “yes,” good for you. You can take credit for good timing, assertiveness, a winning personality, the ability to build strong relationships or a host of other fine attributes. But if both parties want the same thing and all it took was your asking, that’s not negotiating.
Negotiating begins when the other person says “no.”
That’s also when emotions can come into play. Anxiety and anger are common.
Good negotiating starts by examining and controlling your emotions.
First consider what you’re feeling and why. If you’re anxious … are you simply afraid you won’t get what you ask for? Are you worried that you’ll look pushy or greedy? Are you nervous about the other person’s reaction—hoping to avoid a possible confrontation?
Related reading: Successful Negotiating Tactics for Women
Research shows that feeling or looking anxious during negotiation results in suboptimal negotiation outcomes, reports Allison Wood Brooks for hbr.org. “People experiencing anxiety made weaker first offers, responded more quickly to each move the counterpart made and were more likely to exit negotiations early.” They are also more likely to be taken advantage of if the other party senses their distress.
Also, don’t start negotiating when you’re angry. Some people avoid asking for what they want for so long that they have built up anger and resentment. When they do ask, it’s a final-straw, emotion-heavy outburst that gets the discussion started on the wrong foot. Anger can also happen as the negotiation proceeds and can keep people from listening well and processing information, suggests Stuart Diamond for whartonmagazine.com.
Remind yourself that if you haven’t spoken up before now, it’s possible that the other person is unaware of your position and could be surprised by any strong, unrestrained emotions. Keep anger in check during negotiations, suggests Wood Brooks. Research she mentions shows “that anger often harms the process by escalating conflict, biasing perceptions, and making impasses more likely. It also reduces joint gains, decreases cooperation, intensifies competitive behavior and increases the rate at which offers are rejected.” (While some people do fake emotions as a manipulation tool during negotiations, Diamond advises that this behavior could have long-term negative effects on the relationship jeopardizing future negotiations.)
Empathy can benefit negotiations
While out-of-control emotions are bad for negotiations, an understanding of how the other person feels can be very helpful. Empathy will more easily enable you to understand aspects of the negotiation that are most important to the other person and find a workable solution for both of you. Asking questions can be a useful way to gain understanding or help in calming someone down.
Negotiating can induce strong emotions in many of us. One key to successful negotiations is to understand and control your own emotions and learn to read and understand the emotions of others.