November 2, 2005
Excerpts: Beyond Reason - Part VI
A fourth purpose for expressing strong emotions is to preserve or build your relationship with the other. Many negotiators deal with one another again and again. As with marriage, a failure to deal with undercurrents of tension can lead to a decreased ability to work together effectively. Each negotiator sees the other through an increasingly negative lens. Emotional residue builds until neither wants to deal with the other.
There are two key tactics to improve the relationship. First, explain your intentions for acting as you have. Too often, negotiators assume the worst possible explanation of anothers behavior. Clarifying your intentions can deal with that issue. For example, the other side might suspect that you wrote a first draft of an agreement to bias it in your direction. If untrue, you can simply say, My intention for writing up the first draft of the proposal was to help us work efficiently together, since time is short. Please feel free to suggest modifications to this, since I am assuming that nothing suggested by either of us at this point is a commitment.
Second, if you have said or done something that caused the other to develop strong negative feelings, an apology can diffuse their anger. Saying Im sorry is a low-cost way to alter the course of a relationship. A well-timed, sincere apology can repair a tremendous amount of damage in a relationship. Some of the key elements of an effective apology include: recognition of the emotional impact of the action on others, an expression of regret, and a commitment not to repeat the negative action. Saying, Im sorry that you feel hurt, is not nearly as powerful as saying, Im sorry for my poor behavior and for the hurt it has caused you.
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.