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The Power of Understanding

Increasing Negotiation and Leadership Performance through the Power of Understanding


Laws of Power 4: Master Your Psychology

By Karen S. Walch, Ph.D.

This week we will enhance brain performance and right brain qualities with a focus on the psychology of negotiation. Classic power laws assert that power can be attained when we become a master psychologist of others. Baltasar Gracian, a 17th century expert on power, wrote: “Many people spend time studying the properties of animals or herbs; how much more important it would be to study those of the people with whom we must live or die!”

The focus of this classic law is that power can be achieved through the mastery of knowing the psychology and motivations of others. The classicists warn us that careless experiments involving the properties of emotions and power can be as dangerous as playing with fire. You can spare others, and yourself, a lot of pain if you are disciplined and not “bungling” in your knowledge about others’ hidden motives.

Today, however, modern social neuroscientists demand a discipline about understanding our own emotions BEFORE we can credibly perceive others’ emotions. Therefore, the focus in the 21st century as a master psychologist begins with “knowing thyself” first, and understanding others second.

With the exercises this week, you can begin to master your own psychology with the intention to make your emotions work for you, not against you. A master psychologist negotiator is able to understand and manage one’s own emotions, and ultimately, understand and influence others as a result. Many of the successful negotiators from my interviews share many transforming stories of how the exploration of their own emotions and motivations resulted in more negotiation success with others.

The ability to recognize and manage destructive emotions, for example, is necessary before a negotiator is able to manage those emotions and use them to guide strategy, behavior and influence practices with others. It is difficult to think strategically and productively when your emotions hijack the logical left brain.

With high self-awareness you are able to monitor yourself, observe yourself in action, and influence your own actions so your emotions can work to your benefit. When anxiety, for example, is managed with quality negotiation preparation, you can use problem solving and facilitative methods as the best course of action when they are required.

The suppression of emotions deprives us all of valuable information. Psychologists remind us that our emotions can give us important information. Information is power, as negotiators like to say. Many emotions are provoked in negotiation situations because many basic human needs are at risk in each endeavor. Emotions are produced by an interaction of your thoughts, physiological changes and behavioral actions in response to an external event such as an important negotiation.

Mastering your emotions and your psychology requires courage, discipline and practice. Stifling them does not. The decision to explore your own emotions as a negotiator is both pivotal and fragile. As we proceed over the next several weeks through a deeper understanding of your own power and emotions, you will become increasingly aware of the barriers, skills gaps, resource constraints and resistance from others as you exercise new habits of power.

If you have experienced a shock (like losing a meaningful job, friend or contract) or you have simply been discontent with your levels of power, you have already made a decision that you may need to explore your own emotions, habits, beliefs and practices of power. As a building block for increased leverage and power in a negotiation, it is critical to understand how you make emotional interpretations and evaluations of yourself and others.

The basic building blocks of emotional intelligence are to accurately perceive, evaluate and regulate your own emotions. Although this seems relatively easy to do, we are often unconscious of many of the feelings and emotions associated with negotiation.

Law 4 Exercises

Tips on how to master your negotiation psychology:

A. Recognize a situation this week that arouses strong emotions and how that feeling affected your negotiation behavior.

B. Clarify a feeling in a stressful situation in a negotiation and how you were able to reflect on the reasons why you had those feelings.

C. Believe in your capability and ability as a negotiator.

D. Stay composed and positive, even in trying moments.

E. Keep your promises, acknowledge mistakes and act on your own values in a negotiation.

F. Adapt to new information and expect unforeseen demands of your negotiation.

G. Anticipate obstacles to your negotiation goals and seek ways to improve your negotiation performance.

48 Laws for 21st Century Global Negotiators: Join Thunderbird Professor Karen S. Walch, Ph.D., as she explores the laws of power for 21st century global negotiators. Each Monday she discusses one law and provides an exercise to identify and enhance individual negotiation power. Go to the main menu for the series.

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