Emotions in Business Negotiation: How to Keep a Cool Head and Get the Best Results

There’s no doubt that preparation is a key component of a successful business negotiation. Beyond that, however, succeeding at the bargaining table requires the right mindset and a great deal of emotional intelligence. After all, our emotions fuel our behaviors and allow us to either strengthen or damage relationships with the people we are negotiating with. Therefore, it is important to learn how to recognize and manage our emotions in order to achieve our desired results during a negotiation.

How Do Emotions Affect Negotiations?

We often perceive that negotiations are led by logic but they are, in fact, very emotional. Emotions are an unconscious part of our brain that instinctively react to external events. If they interpret conflict as a threat, it could put us in a high-alert mode and this can cause us to react impulsively based on fear, self-doubt, anger, or resentment. The emotions we feel can, in turn, profoundly impact the outcomes we achieve. Improper behavior can escalate tensions, reduce trust, or hurt our chances of reaching a mutual agreement. 

How to Manage Emotions During a Negotiation

If you want to succeed at the bargaining table, it is essential that you learn how to recognize and manage your emotions. Here are a few things you can do to ensure your emotions don’t get the best of you. 

1. Control Your Emotions

The first step to negotiating successfully is learning how to control your emotions. You may not be able to control other people’s behavior but you do have total control over how you react to it. If you feel your emotions are beginning to take over, try these strategies:

  • Take a break: It’s perfectly acceptable to step away from the conversation to regain your composure and return to the negotiation later. Be proactive and call for a short reprieve as soon as you begin to feel negative emotions. 
  • Practice deep breathing: Deep breathing is a great way to relax your mind and body without stepping away from the meeting. Taking a few deep breaths will regulate your emotions by improving circulation throughout the body.
  • Shift the conversation: If your negotiation begins to feel tense, shift the conversation. Perhaps talk about something that you both agree on and then circle back to the other topic once everyone has calmed down. 

2. Maintain a Positive Attitude

It’s no secret that negative emotions can make it difficult to find common ground with the other party. Positive emotions, on the other hand, can lead to more productive conversations and more favorable outcomes. Research has shown that people who channel negative emotions into positive thinking are more likely to perform better. So, channel your anxiety and stress into a more engaging and positive attitude and your counterpart will likely feed off your positivity. 

3. Be Respectful and Courteous

The last thing you want is to come across as rude and abrasive during a negotiation. People do not like to work with others who are difficult and disrespectful so this will never lead to a positive outcome. Rather, be mindful of how you treat your counterpart and remember to be respectful and courteous at all times. 

4. Know Your Triggers

Negotiations are often high-stress situations and this can lead to doubt, anxiety, and fear. So, you can learn to control these emotions by identifying what you are feeling internally. For example, are you nervous the other person will say no? Are you afraid they won’t like your proposal? Are you worried they might be aggressive toward you? For each of these questions, come up with an appropriate response and make a plan for how you will handle each situation. This will help you identify what is causing your negative emotions and give you the confidence to deal with it in a positive way.