Emotional intelligence is often brought up when we talk about leadership skills. The ability to understand your own and others’ emotions, and put that understanding to constructive use, is often cited as critical to motivating teams and building trust.
But have you considered the importance of EQ in negotiation?
At the heart of negotiation are the people affected by the outcomes, who by their very nature are emotional. You can’t separate people from a problem, so it stands to reason that you can’t separate emotions from people. Consequently, you need to accept the existence of emotions in the negotiation process and channel those emotions toward more positive outcomes.
A skilled negotiator can limit the damaging effects of negative emotions, whilst promoting positive emotions to build stronger relationships and enhance decision-making.
Role of Emotional Intelligence in Negotiation
Just what is “emotional intelligence”?
There are varying definitions of EQ, but broadly, it’s the capacity to be aware of, control and express one’s emotions. It can also refer to one’s ability to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously or emphatically.
It’s tempting to approach a negotiation with logical arguments regarding economic or political motivators. However, it’s important to recognise your counterpart’s emotional response, as well as your own.
Failure to consider the impact of emotions on the negotiation process can result in our emotions taking centre stage, perhaps more than we’d like. The outcome is often a less favourable agreement (if any) as negotiators on both sides can be:
- Distracted from the critical points;
- Hindered in decision-making; and
- Open to manipulation.
Recognising that emotions are omnipresent in negotiations is the first step toward improving our EQ.
Understanding the Other Side
Whenever we take a seat at the negotiating table, our instincts will be to focus on what we want. It takes a concerted effort for us to stop and consider what the other party wants and what they might think is fair.
The key to understanding the other side is to allocate time in our preparation to put ourselves in our counterpart’s shoes. Empathy goes a long way toward helping us to understand our counterpart’s motivators, and with sufficient planning, we can prepare a proposal that may be better received by them.
Improving Emotional Intelligence
The great news is that emotional intelligence can be learned, much like presentation skills or time management. Participating in a negotiation skills training course can help you to hone the core elements of EQ within a safe space:
- Self-Awareness: Learning to recognise your own emotions in real-time is as important as identifying your counterpart’s emotions. Understanding your pressure points helps you avoid projecting your emotions onto others and know when you need a break.
- Self-Management: Awareness of your emotions is just the first step. You also need to learn how to control your impulses and adapt to the situation, so you can choose how to respond.
- Social Awareness: Tied into your understanding of your counterpart’s emotional responses should be comprehension of their social networks. In other words, the external factors that influence their behaviour. Social awareness is instrumental in developing empathy.
By bringing all of these elements together, you’ll be in a better position to foster positive relationships, even whilst managing conflict.
What are the Benefits of Emotional Intelligence in Negotiation?
Incorporating EQ in your negotiation approach will not only make you a better negotiator, but you’ll also reap the benefits of improved outcomes and longer-lasting relationships.
The majority of what we want to say is communicated via body language, rather than the spoken word, including our emotions. From rolling our eyes to huffs of breath, our emotions are often on display without us realising it.
Tuning into our own and our counterpart’s emotions (and the physical signs of them) can help us strengthen our communication skills and redirect our strategy to more efficiently achieve our goals.
Improved Problem Solving
Fear and anger often cloud our judgement and our ability to come together to solve a problem. By contrast, positive emotions such as happiness or acceptance are more likely to bring parties together to find a mutually beneficial solution.
Appreciating the feelings and thoughts of others goes a long way toward making a person feel valued and respected. Active listening goes hand-in-hand with empathy, which is essential for building rapport and genuine relationships. Fostering strong relationships leads to collaboration, helping to steer negotiations towards joint agreements.
Emotions & Negotiation
Humans are emotional and it’s almost impossible to separate emotion from a conflict, which makes it imperative for successful negotiators to embrace emotional intelligence rather than try to push it out of the negotiation process.