The Power of Understanding

Increasing Negotiation and Leadership Performance through the Power of Understanding

Laws of Power 5: Practice Emotional Intelligence

By Karen S. Walch, Ph.D.

Ultimate negotiation leverage is the power to get your counterpart to comply with your requests. Classic power theorists point out that when others willingly grant what you ask for without the need to force or explicitly hurt them, your power is untouchable. In classic terms, the best way to guarantee this level of power is through disciplined attention to the weaknesses of your negotiation partners.

Tactics of classic manipulation, such as spying and preying on another’s obsessions, weaknesses, and desires, can artfully be used to get what you want. With this critical knowledge, you can predictably lead your counterpart to yield to your requests by creating their dependency on you and weakening their resolve.

Such predatory practices are often considered deceitful (and often illegal or immoral). These tactics often result in the destruction of sustainable agreements in both personal and professional negotiations. They also can lead to jail time!

If a quality relationship is a necessary condition for your agreement, then preying on your counterpart’s weaknesses could destroy that relationship. When a facilitative (versus manipulative) negotiator wants to enhance power in order to get compliant behaviors from their counterparts, other tactics and goals of gathering and using that information are practiced.

A facilitative negotiator gathers quality information about a negotiation counterpart which involves more value creation methods and cost effective behaviors. An investigation is conducted to understand others’ needs and how that can be used to drive a counterpart’s incentive to cooperate with you in order to help achieve your own goals while both parties can win.

It does not need to be repeated that humans are infinitely complex and we could spend a lifetime observing and researching others without ever fully understanding them. It is difficult, but not impossible, however, to develop strategic preparation methods in order to learn about our counterparts for a mutual gains negotiation.

Later in the 48 Laws series, we will address systematic ways to conduct legal external business and competitive intelligence on our counterparts. However, this week we will focus on the emotional intelligence practices that can elicit vital information about your counterpart’s needs and motivations if you need to develop a negotiation strategy that addresses your interdependent needs and the generation of cooperative social engagement.

One way to gather key information about your counterpart is through primary observations when communicating with them verbally and nonverbally. Negotiation incompetence is often due to an inability to read social and emotional signals that indicate what others need or want. Emotional intelligence skills of relationship management, service orientation and social interpersonal effectiveness increase the ability to gather critical information about your negotiation counterpart.

Last week we focused on the awareness and management of our own psychology. In this framework, a fundamental skill was to recognize the difference between being caught up in a feeling (such as anger, fear, intolerance, etc) and becoming aware that you may be swept away or rendered incompetent by it.

The cornerstone to a better understanding about others’ needs and motivations is to be attentive to our own internal state and the emotional choices we make before we act. Unless you suffer from a real physical brain condition or alexithymia (which means you do not have the neural capacity to know what you are feeling), you can develop the skill to know and manage your own emotions. As you become more aware of your own emotions, you can increasingly recognize them in others.

This week we will further the right brain and mindfulness skills to notice new things about your daily interactions with others. As you shift from reflexive negotiation practices, you will begin to sense the emotional and social subtext of the negotiation.

This mindfulness practice can be overwhelming at first, but it potentially enhances the quality of information and satisfaction in any social interaction. This insight and brain priming also enhances our negotiation presence and confidence as social interactions become more vitalizing, satisfying and outcomes more sustainable.

The exercises this week illustrate some of the practices successful negotiators I have worked with consider to be critical to their intelligence gathering and influence skills. Social awareness involves, first, a choice to observe and sense others’ feelings and perspectives, and then to take into account others’ interests and concerns. In addition, a choice is made to understand the underlying issues, organizational and negotiation team climate, politics, and informal structure facing your negotiation counterpart. These are the key skills required for a mutual gains negotiation.

Successful negotiators also know that in order to have impact on others’ decision to comply with your own requests, it may be necessary to develop indirect influence or ‘behind the scenes’ support. The most skillful negotiators build on their practices of emotional intelligence to understand their own and others’ emotional needs. Then it is possible to manage them in order to address conflicts, orchestrate win-win solutions, and build bonds and encourage cooperation in negotiations.

Law 5 exercise

Here are a few ways to practice emotional intelligence in your negotiations:

A. Practice dynamic listening. Through social interaction with your counterpart, observe and test what they say AND do about their intentions. Observe, for example, their intention statements, (such as “I want, I would like, we wish”), and their action statements (such “I am thinking, we are going to, I am committed to”). Observe this, in relationship to their body language. For example, if they are gazing out the window, verify whether they are ‘thinking’ or not interested.

B. Summarize your counterparts’ statements. In addition to acknowledgement and summary of the fact statements, acknowledge any feeling statements. Tune in to the emotional subtext through observation of nonverbal behavior and willingness to engage in problem solving behavior, for example. Also, ascertain and summarize your counterparts’ perception of you and your negotiation intentions, etc

C. Recognize that there is an emotional component to factual statements. As a presenter, observe not only what you say but how you communicate the facts. If you listen and observe your counterpart who may for example, hesitate often, look away from others, and to express misgivings, ask for clarification of concerns.

D. Use self-disclosure statements. Lead the way to elicit a discussion of what others may be feeling, i.e. anxiety, resource scarcity, etc. The value for the negotiation is that in the short term there is relief in feeling less anxious. All parties can benefit from knowledge of a shared experience and how the parties can strategically problem solve together.

E. Solicit thoughts and feelings about expressing thoughts and feelings. Sometimes despite your best efforts you are unable to shift the communication in the negotiation to thoughts or feelings. You may say that you notice it is difficult and could ask how the other party feels about being asked to go to this feeling level. It is best timed to shift the conversation to a feeling level when someone communicates despondency nonverbally, for example.

Extra credit
For further reading and exercises on the practice of emotional intelligence read Emotional Intelligence at Work: An Untapped Edge for Success by Hendrie Weisinger (1998) and visit Hay Group about capability assessment of emotional intelligence.

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.