This article was based on research conducted by Conti Advanced Business Learning (www.cabl.ch), a Swiss training company that specializes in Negotiation & Influencing training.
It is hard to imagine anyone who hasn’t been involved in a heated argument or negotiation at some point during their professional and personal lives. As we get older, we hope outbursts become less physical and more controlled. The problem with this is that emotion drives our decision making. As Douglas Van Praet, the author of Unconscious Branding: How Neuroscience Can Empower (and Inspire) Marketing, puts it:
“The most startling truth is we don’t even think our way to logical solutions. We feel our way to reason. Emotions are the substrate, the base layer of neural circuitry underpinning even rational deliberation. Emotions don’t hinder decisions. They constitute the foundation on which they’re made!”
So how do we use emotions, or more specifically, emotional messaging, to influence others when the business environment we’re in relies on facts and figures?
Be culture conscious
Emotion is a critical component in any relationship and even more in negotiation. I have been involved in deals across the world and though it may seem obvious, my key takeaway would be to be cautious on how you use emotion when dealing with different cultures. It’s another element you should prepare for and it should be considered as a factor of your negotiation strategy.
The last chance to change their mind
Typically I do not use emotional messages unless we get to a ‘sticking point’ in negotiations. For me, the ‘when’ to use this tactic is very important – if over-used you lose credibility. I would use an emotional appeal to achieve:
- A greater purpose (eg. Environment, sustainability, a better world); or
- To appeal to ‘fairness’, for example, even if the other party has a slight upper hand, try to appeal to their fairness in applying their demand (e.g a price increase) to your long term relationship.
Be genuine with your emotional messaging
I like to create an empathic connection with my counterpart (eg asking about their kids) and to break up any tension with jokes. You need to be personal with your comments and ultimately you really need to care. I remember a negotiation with a supplier who had just gone through a major storm in their private life. His mood was very negatively affecting the whole discussion. During a break, I asked him how he was, and I was genuinely interested in the answer. After the break, the discussion turned on its head completely and moved forward in a much more productive way for both sides.
Take a time-out when things get ‘hot’
Use emotions very carefully in negotiations. Emotions both affect you and the other party as people can react negatively and reality can become distorted. Sometimes people use emotion to manipulate emotions, they feign anger to move negotiations towards their objectives. When emotions are used – be wary! Focus on facts and not feelings. When things get too ‘hot’, then have a time-out, avoid using emotive words and maintain your composure. Do not fall victim to this trap!
Know the culture you’re influencing in
The use of emotional messages should always be put in the context of cultural subtilities. In some cultures, emotional messages are at best totally useless and at worst, counterproductive, whether they are positive or negative emotions. On the contrary in other cultures, the lack of emotion is received as a lack of personal engagement and may be perceived as a lack of willingness to really convince others. Emotional messages may be used when appropriate, but always in a very controlled manner.
Know whom you’re trying to influence
Using emotions could be very tricky. It has lots of dependency on the culture and how they accept such emotional messages. In the Middle East, emotional messages are part of the day to day discussions and negotiations on all aspects. The stronger or more confident you appear makes it easier for you to influence things towards the demands you desire.
The Emotional Messaging Triple Triage
With my scientific education and rational attitude, I struggled for a good part of my career to use emotional messages effectively. A certification program in Neuro-Linguistic Programming over three years has helped me to discover the power of emotional messages. The use of emotional messages will depend mainly from three factors: the person you are dealing with, the existing relationship, and the context. Regarding the effectiveness, you can judge yourself. For example, do you find it more persuasive if a salesperson says “the price you are asking me is below my variable cost” or if they say “to be able to sell you at those prices, I would have to close my plant in Western Europe, fire all the employees and impact the lives of thousands of people.”
These answers were collected by Giuseppe Conti, Founder and Managing Partner of Conti Advanced Business Learning (www.cabl.ch), a consulting firm that specialises in negotiation & influencing. This article is part of a series aimed at collecting real-life negotiation experiences from Procurement executives.