Strong but Controlled Emotions Can Help You Negotiate Successfully

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business people arguing

Recently I spoke with an attorney who said there is never a good reason to bang your fists on the table during a negotiation. “Never” is such an absolute word. I tell my daughters that the words “never” and “always” are rarely appropriate. No two negotiations are exactly the same. Because of that, being tied to absolute rules can be a big mistake.

Within one conversation, you can try many different negotiation strategies. And, while banging your fists on the table might be outside your comfort zone, varied emotions can be useful to a negotiation. In fact, contrary to popular opinion, research supports the argument that “expressing anger can lead to more successful negotiations, in life or on the job.”

Emotions can be very uncomfortable for people. I have yet to meet anyone who feels completely at ease getting yelled at. Being across the table from strong emotions can be especially disconcerting, and uncontrolled emotions can, of course, derail a negotiation. But when those strong emotions are expressed in a moderate and controlled manner, they can help advance your position.

Controlled outrage, disappointment, or disgust can sometimes advance a negotiation. A case report from The Journal of Experimental Social Psychology found that expressing a moderate-intensity anger “led to larger concessions than no anger because the anger expresser was perceived as tough.” But if the anger got out of control, it was perceived as inappropriate.

The right balance of emotion can tip the scales in your favor. Stern communications are powerful, but excessive outrage becomes scary. No matter how strategic you are in using anger in negotiations, we all lose control at some point. If you do lose your cool and let your anger go too far, use the mistake as a tool to get the negotiation back on track. Apologize for losing your temper and emphasize how important the negotiation is to you.

Controlling emotions can be difficult when the stakes are high or the negotiation is personal, which is why it is important to plan out negotiation strategies prior to coming to the table. Use your mirror or a recording device to practice and prepare for your negotiations. Pay close attention to points that are triggering and monitor how you feel so that you can maintain control during the actual negotiation.

You shouldn’t be taking a “scorched earth” approach in your strategic conversations, but don’t be afraid to occasionally use strong emotions to accentuate your position. Each negotiation is different and will require adaptivity and creativity. Because of this, “always” keep in mind that there are no absolutes when it comes to negotiating.