Negotiating With Emotional Intelligence

Written by Stasia Rice Posted in Blog

There are many opportunities in our lives and careers to negotiate for what we want:

·         The cost, scope or schedule of your next project

·         The sale price of a car or house

·         Your starting salary or vacation benefits for a new job

·         Your upcoming performance raise

Many notable authors and scholars have pointed out the advantages of using emotional intelligence in these scenarios.  My experience with these concepts is that I need to break them down in to very simple terms so that I can remember them in the “heat of the moment” and under the stress that negotiations typically put on us.



In most cases, preserving the relationship with the person that you are negotiating with is AS important as getting what you want.  Mutually agreeable terms are often the way to ensure that this can happen.  In other words – you both give a little – and you both walk away satisfied.  

Before you begin a negotiation, it’s important to be prepared with three key boundaries for yourself:

·         What is the BEST outcome for me that could reasonably happen?

·         What concessions am I willing to make?

·         What concessions am I NOT willing to make?

Now in order to get to a mutually agreeable point, you (and preferably the person you are negotiating with) will need to employ a few key areas of emotional intelligence:

·         Awareness of YOUR emotions and how they affect others

·         Regulation of your moods and behavior

·         Awareness and empathy for the OTHER party’s motivations and emotions

That may sound a little overwhelming, so in the midst of the negotiation – just keep checking in with yourself on these three areas:

What emotions am I having and how are they being perceived by the other party?

Emotions are always in a constant state of flux and having them isn’t the problem. Being aware of them and controlling their impact is.  Using your ‘poker face’ can be important in order to keep the other party guessing at what concessions you are willing to make.  But more importantly, heightened emotions typically make people feel uncomfortable and keeping your emotions under wraps will allow the other party to react to the terms presented not emotions.

Am I too emotionally charged to think clearly?

Often in a negotiation, we may feel cornered, or offended by the terms or concessions we are being asked to make.  In order to reach a mutually agreeable outcome, keep revisiting the previously determined boundaries that you set.  If the proposed terms are outside your boundaries – then you’ll need to be able to push past the emotions to think critically and come up with a possible solution to the problem. There are often many different ways to reach an agreement.  If you can, take a break, breathe deeply, and get re-centered before responding. If you can’t stop the conversation, then ask them to give you a moment to consider their terms and do your best to calm down. 

What emotions am I sensing from the other party?  How can I help to keep the situation calm?

Sometimes in a negotiation, you’ll notice that the other party has become offended or upset about the concessions you are requesting of them or the boundaries that they are asked to bend.  In the end, it’s in your best interest to help keep them calm by perceiving their emotions and adjusting your language to present your position.  When you are able to create rapport and trust with the other party, the odds of finding a mutually agreeable outcome are that much higher. 

One important note to make, a Harvard Study did find that, “The results suggest that emotional rapport and other signs of a keen emotional intellect can promote trust and long-term partnerships. But when it prompts unnecessary concessions, emotional intelligence may undermine the same connections that it is touted to enhance. … these negotiators’ keen sense of empathy may have led them to make excessive concessions to their counterparts at the expense of their own gains. Past work has suggested that emotionally intelligent negotiators may be vulnerable to exploitation by their counterparts for this reason.”  

I believe that there are times when you may choose to bend your boundaries in order to support a long term relationship, and other times when your own position is the most important goal in the negotiation.  Be clear with yourself on which of these is true, BEFORE you enter the arena!

Best of luck in your next negotiation!
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About the Author

Stasia Rice

Stasia Rice

Stasia is an organizational development consultant and leadership coach committed to developing leaders and helping to improve the programs that impact the employees in their organizations. Stasia partners with you to define your goals, assess the barriers, and clear the path to effective change.

Stasia has spent most of her career serving clients in the DHS and DOD branches of the federal government through top management consulting firms like Deloitte and IBM. Today she helps leaders and organizations through coaching leaders, development of strategic plans and communications, or refining business processes. Stasia enjoys being able to use her creativity and problem solving skills to exceed expectations with her clients... read more

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