A Question Of Emotions

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Communication always involves an exchange of both facts and feelings. But in business situations, such as negotiations, people often overlook the importance of managing feelings and emotions – their own, but also those of their counterparts. Yet a successful netofiator needs to be not only a master of facts, but also a master of emotions. Here we examine the origins of emotions and look at strategies for dealing sensitively with the feelings of others in order to facilitate collaborative decision making.

1.Understanding emotions

The first thing we have to do if we want to master our emotions – and the emotions of others – is to understand exactly what it is that has to be mastered. Emotions come in various shapes and sizes, of course, but can essentially be reduced to those that characterize positive or negative states, e.g. happy / sad, calm / irritated, excited / bored, relaxed / edgy, cheerful / depressed, etc.

2. Emotions as a risk

  • Wasted time leads to inefficiency. Negative emotions cause deffensive reactions that stop us from listening and cause us to focus our attention on justifying our own actions and positions. Our efforts go into pointing out why others are wrong and we are right.
  • Loss of respect leads to inflexibility. As we criticize and blame others – justifying our own position and looking for weaknesses in the positions of our counterparts – we lose respect in their eyes. If we display unfair and insensitive attitudes towards others, this can reduce their willingness to be flexible towards us.
  • Less trust leads to fewer opportunities. Senior managers are likely to disapprove if you have problems with managing your emotions. More over, they will have less faith in your ability to manage pressure and complexity. Less trust also means a lower degree of openness and creativity, leading to worse solutions during complex negotiations.

3. Using positive emotions

Positive emotions present an opportunity. If we can produce energy and optimism in others, they will listen to us more closely and be more open for our ideas. They will also become more flexible and perhaps collaborate with us positively in future discussions as well.
Let`s look at communication strategies we can use to handle the related emotions:

  • The need to feel valued. If people do not have the feeling that you value their efforts and contributions, they can quickly become closed to your arguments, growing defensive and agressive in the face of perceived attack.
  • The need to feel connected. People are social animals who need connections to others. Negative emotions are quickly generated if we feel separated, isolated or rejected. During a negotiation, it is important to build a sense of togetherness to facilitate a willingness to support each other with necessary compromises to reach a common goal.
  • The need to feel independent. We want connections, but we also value our own space and our right to think the way we do and to influence our lives with our own decisions. When that scope is removed, we can feel pressured, trapped and dominated, and are likely to react aggressively and defensively.
  • The need to feel respected. Most people experience negative emotions if they have the feeling that their counterparts do not respect them. Respect can come from many sources: appreciation of expertise, recognition of ethical values and behaviour, understanding of difficult life experiences suffered by a person. The important thing is to communicate respect in therms that people can understand, particularly during tough discussions. This helps to keep negative emotions away from the negotiating table.

4. Influencing others

Effective negotiators need to master emotions, particularly the emotions of their counterparts. If we stimulate negative emotions in others, then our ability to influence them and to build relationships and conduct successful negotiations with them diminishes. The best way to stimulate positive emotions and negotiate more effectively is to direct our communication to managing the four key human needs: the need to feel valued, connected, independent and respected.

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