Emotions & Negotiation

2 min read
6 November 2011

Over recent years, academic research has reconsidered the way we think and value emotions.“I think therefore I am”, a statement proposed by French philosopher Rene Descartes, places in people’s minds the idea that thinking and intellect was all that mattered, and that emotions were to be ignored. The latest neuroscience research is proving otherwise.

Today, there are more scientists than ever before exploring the make-up of emotions and how they run through our brains and bodies.

Becoming a good negotiator requires the development of a set of skills which range from self-awareness to awareness of others, as well as other skills such as self-regulation. One of the basic principles to be taken into account, is that “If you cannot know and manage yourself, how can you know and manage the other party when you are negotiating”?

Dr. Evian Gordon, a Sydney based neuroscientist explains that to understand ourselves better, how we communicate, decide, negotiate and behave, first we need to understand what are “emotions”.

Dr. Gordon defines emotions as “action tendencies” that are triggered automatically and without awareness by signals of potential danger and reward that we react to, in the absence of conscious awareness.

Emotions are supported by a “feedforward” mode of brain and body activity. For example, a sudden loud noise will trigger an automatic startle response (‘jump’) which is the action tendency of fear that prepares us to flee.

Emotions are triggered subconsciously in response to an encountered situation or event. Our survival mechanism is hardwired to protect us, and these emotions (made up of chemical substances) quickly flood our bodies and brains.

Emotions are not good or bad; they are there for a reason. They occur to minimize, avoid pain or seek pleasure. This is the way the brain organizes itself.

Dr. Gordon also explains what self regulation is: the shaping, planning and monitoring of behaviors over time, to Minimize Danger-Maximize Reward. It encompasses regulation of emotion.

For example, if you find that you have excessive fear reactions to signals in your environment, you can train your breathing so that you can better inhibit these reactions and ensure they do not interfere with your reward-related behaviors.

We cannot leave emotions at the door, neither can we ignore them, particularly in situations such as a negotiation with another human being.

If we are mindful of emotions such as fear, anxiety, excitement and hope that could arise in this type of situation, we may be able to use this information to decide or adjust the way we are communicating with the other party.

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