Check Your Emotional Temperature

By on / Conflict Resolution

Do you ever feel ambushed by strong emotions?

To guard against acting irrationally or in ways that can harm you, authors of Beyond Reason: Using Emotions As You Negotiate Roger Fisher and Daniel Shapiro advise you to take your emotional temperature during a negotiation. Specifically, try to gauge whether your emotions are manageable, starting to heat up, or threatening to boil over.

Here are some suggestions for lowering your emotional temperature:

Develop an Emergency Plan

Give yourself an ‘out’ – a break that allows you to take a walk to cool down, to call a friend or colleague for reinforcement, or remind yourself of your BATNA (best alternative to a negotiated agreement).

Shift the Focus

Ask questions that you time, bring new information, and test your assumptions. (See also: In Deal Making, Broaden Your Focus)

Diagnose Your Ailment

What core concerns of yours are not being met? Are you hurt because you feel unappreciated or dismissed? Once you understand why you’re upset, you’ll be better able to signal what you need. (See also: Emotion and Judgment)

In our FREE special report from the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School – The New Conflict Management: Effective Conflict Resolution Strategies to Avoid Litigation – renowned negotiation experts uncover unconventional approaches to conflict management that can turn adversaries into partners.

Originally published in May 2013.

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2 Responses to “Check Your Emotional Temperature”

  1. Aled Davies /

    Thanks for the post. When the stakes are high for parties in any negotiation and I'm speaking predominantly about the negotiation phase within a mediation, parties are always in danger of being sabotaged by their own emotions. One of the problems I see is that many people perceive the expression of emotion as a weakness or inappropriate in a 'commercial setting'. I often hear the expression; 'let's not get emotional now', which reinforces this perspective. I'd argue however that emotions are important and valuable data points in a negotiation. For example if I'm feeling very uneasy about something that's being said or proposed but ignore that feeling, then I could risk making a decision that isn't in my interests. I need to tune in to my emotions to make sense of them, so my uneasiness could be a hunch that the other party has an agenda in the conversation but isn't being transparent about it. If I'm emotionally self aware then I'll tune into this, maybe follow the suggestion above and take a break to reflect and make sense of my internal reaction, come back and test out my hunch. There's a fabulous interview with Joanna Kalowski, an experienced Australian mediator who's mediated in highly sensitive inter-racial and political settings all over the world. Joanna was a member of the administrative appeals tribunal for 10 years and later a member of the National Native Title Tribunal where she mediated land claims by Aboriginal people to their traditional lands and waters. She describes vividly how emotions affect parties in mediation and negotiation settings and what to say in order to diffuse these incredibly tense moments. You can listen to that interview here: Mediator Academy Interviews hope that's useful. Best wishes Aled Reply

  2. GregoryCanion /

    Very useful article. That really helps to keep emotions under control. Maybe it will need some time to pass, but in general everything is new and should work out. I didn’t know that my temperature rises when I’m nervous or angry. I also read other articles, linked here. Great information. Thanks. Reply

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