How to deal with anger during a negotiation

Monday, November 24, 2014, by Eliane Karsaklian

irrational or rationalHuman beings are reaction machines. The most natural thing they do when confronted with a difficult situation is react—to act without thinking. There are three common reactions: striking back (because of the belief that attacking is the best defense), giving in (to just be done with it), and breaking off (abandoning the negotiation). You should not engage in any of these reactions. Let rationality be your guide throughout the whole negotiation process. Rationality enables you to have a distant view of close things.

You might have an angry person before you. It can be a genuine anger or just a tactic to make you feel frightened or angry. Don’t try to stop them or to make them “be reasonable” at that moment. People who are feeling their emotions stop listening. If it is a genuine anger, people need to vent it. They will not hear a single word you say, as they are blinded by what upsets them. Let them say all they have to say. Once they calm down, you may start talking. Take their anger seriously, and don’t try to minimize what seems to be a relevant issue to them. It would sound like a lack of respect—or worse—like mockery to people who are emotionally shaken.

When your thoughts are driven by negative emotions, you are more likely to be anxious and defensive and view the negotiation as a conflicting, stressful situation. You will be ready to attack instead of compromise. Your reasoning will be more emotional than rational, and you will lose sight of your objectives and might make hasty, poor decisions. Thus, you will be more likely to give up as the negotiation gets tougher, and as your goals begin to look unattainable. Anger can blind, fear can paralyze, and guilt can weaken. You are better off asking for a break or changing to another topic, so that you and your counterparts can return to rationality.

Your thoughts lead to your perception of the negotiation. What you see is not the truth, but your perception of the truth. This can be either positive or negative, depending upon your state of mind.

To learn more, read The Intelligent International Negotiator, Business Expert Press, 2014

  • So important to keep your emotions and head in check. Respond not react.