November 2, 2005
Excerpts: Beyond Reason - Part V
A third purpose for expressing strong emotions is to influence the behavior of a person with whom you are negotiating. By expressing the intensity of your emotion, you demonstrate the importance of your interests.
Here we would like to distinguish between two situations. In one, negotiators honestly reveal a genuine strong emotion (that they might otherwise not disclose). They reveal their sincere feelings so that another negotiator may be moved by those feelings.
A quite different situation is one in which a negotiator feigns being emotionally upset in order to exert influence deceptively on another person. Rather than disclosing strong emotions that truly affect them, a negotiator here has become an actor and is falsely and deceptively pretending to be dominated by a strong negative emotion. This is being done, however, for the same purpose and with the same intent as the first caseto influence the behavior of another negotiator.
As we consider consciously using emotions in order to influence another negotiator, the distinction between revealing a genuine emotion of unknown strength that currently exists and pretending to have a powerful and perhaps uncontrollable emotion may not be as clear cut as the previous two paragraphs suggest. Expressing a strong emotion is sometimes a strategic act intended to influence the behavior of another person. A parents angerclearly expressedcan get a teenager to do chores that no amount of reasoned persuasion ever could. Your strong expression of anger may persuade others to act in ways that further your interests. To influence another negotiator to make a concession, might you storm out of a meeting? Rip up your notes? Raise your voice? And whatever you do, others may try to express strong emotions deceptively in order to influence you, perhaps to influence you to raise your offer on their house.
Expressing strong emotions can also be a way to influence anothers image of you. A senior lawyer may perceive a new associate as weak, passive, and incapable of handling the tougher, prestigious clients. A young associate realizing the senior lawyers perception of him may make a point of passionately asserting his views during meetings.
The truth about the state of ones emotions is rarely crystal clear. Fuzziness about that truth encourages negotiators to bluff, to mislead, and to act deceptively. As we mentioned earlier in this book, trusting others is a matter of risk analysis. Every embezzler is someone who was trustedmistakenly. Be careful. Do not overload trust. At the same time, negotiators fare better to the extent that they are trustworthy and trusted. When it comes to being deceptive and misleading, be aware of the costs and risks. It is often possible and usually more enjoyable to behave in ways of which you, your children, and others can be proud.
About Dylan Schleicher
Dylan Schleicher has been a part of the 800-CEO-READ claque since 2003. Even though he's stayed on at the company, he has not stayed put. After beginning in shipping & receiving, he joined customer service and accounting before moving into his current, highly elliptical orbit of duties overseeing the ChangeThis and In the Books websites, the company's annual review of books and in-house design. He lives with his wife and two children in the Washington Heights neighborhood on Milwaukee's West Side.