Negotiating with emotional intelligence

Emotional intelligence skills are an immense help in our negotiations.

A negotiator listens intently and watches carefully while their negotiating partner explains something going on for them.



Obtain or bring about by discussion.
“he negotiated a new contract with the sellers”

We negotiate every single day. We negotiate with our kids. We negotiate our plans with our life partners. We negotiate with our bosses. And so on. We negotiate relationships through a process of stating our desires and saying what we are and are not prepared to do in response to the requests or needs of others. Relationships are a process of discussion, compromise, negotiation and agreement in a continuous cycle.

If you type in ‘articles on negotiation’ you’ll see related topics such as conflict or dispute resolution, mediation, dealing with difficult people, having difficult conversations. It is implied that this process of relaying desires to others is fraught with the possibility of complications.

If you type in quotations about negotiation, you’ll see quotations about winning and losing, and about negotiations as battles or games to be won. One of the most famous quotations about negotiation comes from John F. Kennedy who said, “Let us never negotiate out of fear, but let us never fear to negotiate.”

What is the fear about? Is it the fear of not getting what we want? Or the fear of having what some might experience as a difficult conversation?

“Let us never negotiate out of fear, but let us never fear to negotiate.” – John F. Kennedy  Tweet This!

And if you wonder what’s been written about emotions in negotiation, you’ll see articles on leaving emotions out of negotiations, managing your emotions in negotiations, using the other person’s emotions against them, and using your own emotions against the other person. What about being intelligent about emotions?

Emotional intelligence is based on neuroscience research that confirms that our brains process emotions and emotional information at a greater rate and in greater quantity than we ever thought before. Emotions are always present whether we are aware of them or not. To be intelligent about them in negotiating is to first be aware and then use the information they provide in a way that supports positive outcomes for all involved.

Therefore, no discussion of negotiation is complete without the inclusion of emotional intelligence.

How can an awareness of emotional intelligence (EI) support us in negotiation? It begins with the fundamental EI skills that we teach leaders in our leadership programs, starting with how we regard ourselves. Do we think we are worthy and deserving of having what we intend to negotiate? Feeling confident translates into how we represent ourselves and our own interests to others.

Emotional self-awareness is going to help us to be aware of our own feelings about what we want and about how we feel entering into the negotiation. If we’re feeling nervous or anxious about having the conversation, then we also need to understand how to express those emotions constructively.

Assertiveness is the EI skill that can help us to clearly articulate our desired outcome or action. Empathy will help us to really listen to the other person and focus on and monitor what’s going on for them emotionally for greater connection. A focus on social responsibility keeps us attending to the bigger picture and benefits. When we enter a negotiation thinking about how we can all win, we have a better chance of working together to make it happen rather than negotiating with the intention of ‘winning.’

Emotions can support or interfere in our application of logic. Here is where the EI skills of problem solving, reality testing, and impulse control are critical. By understanding how emotions affect us in the moment we can recognize our hot buttons. What sets us off and renders us less capable of looking out for our best interests? What are our biases? Do we have the ability to be patient or might we be tempted to jump at a quick outcome in favour of the best outcome?

Finally, are we able to exercise flexibility and be open to new possibilities we hadn’t thought of before? Can we maintain a hopeful outlook that a great solution is possible with the right kind of creativity and persistence? Finally, we need to use our emotional intelligence skills to be the leader who refuses the win-lose model in favour of a win-win opportunity for all.

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