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Managing your Emotions in a Negotiation

Updated: Jul 27, 2021

Last week, I was discussing the merits of Emotionally Intelligent Negotiation with a friend who has owned a string of restaurants in London for the last 30 years. His business success had been based on making good decisions and negotiating good margins with his suppliers and partners.

During the discussion, he echoed the sentiment that conventional wisdom states when it comes to negotiating, namely that we should “show a poker face” in a negotiation for fear of looking weak and giving things away. If we show emotion and look weak, our counterparts will take advantage of us. He was right in the last part of the statement; yes if we look weak we do lay ourselves open to be walked over, but who said showing emotion was weak? Many people today still regard emotion as an impediment to a negotiation.

Take a recent case of Paul Mijas, a client who had just extended a lease on a property. He had paid the lawyer the final invoice and assumed the matter was put to bed. Six months later he received a further invoice for some additional work that had not been covered in the final contract but was essential to the closing of the deal. Paul saw no reason why he should pay the money, citing that he felt the lawyers had messed up. Paul´s argument was that the lawyers should have put the full amount in the closing invoice and hence he ignored the solicitor's requests for payment. No amount of reason would have helped Paul in this case, until we uncovered the emotion that was driving his behaviour.

Paul explained that he felt taken advantage of by the solicitors because they had not explained the possibility of extra costs in the initial consultation. Once we had identified how Paul felt, we were able to express this professionally to his solicitor, who then proceeded to show immense professionalism and highlight where the contract had explicitly said they would be “after cost” following the final submission of the lease contract. She was also able to demonstrate that this was a perfectly normal procedure hence alleviating Paul´s sense that he was being taken advantage of.

Emotions are key to a negotiation, they bring what we care about to the fore.

It is wise not to ignore emotions, but to use them as indicators and road maps to determine how you and your counterpart are feeling. Emotions are like energy and can be channelled to behaviours that are appropriate to the situation. Emotions play a much bigger part in our decision making than perhaps we would like to admit. This is why we use empathy invites: Statements that demonstrate empathy and understanding for your counterpart by giving the emotion we see a name while inviting them to respond. To learn more on how you can use emotional intelligence in your negotiations, contact me at

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