How to Control Your Emotions in Conflict Resolution

Learn how to take your emotional temperature during a negotiation.

By PON Staffon / Conflict Resolution

The following is negotiation advice drawn from a case study of conflict resolution and management: 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.


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.


Emotions in Conflict Resolution

Do you ever feel ambushed by strong emotions?

Here are some negotiation tips 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: Business Negotiations – In Deal Making, Broaden Your Focus – In this negotiation scenario, imagine a negotiator is in charge of scouting for office space for a new branch of her company in a neighboring city. She does her research, meets with several real estate agents, and chooses the agent she qualitatively and quantitatively feels is the best candidate for finding the company’s new branch location. After selecting her preferred agent, the agent then begins to send her principal (the company representative) many options, so many that the principal feels overwhelmed with the number of possible locations for the new company branch (see also – agent theory). Having options can be a blessing, but it can also stifle decision making and lead to inaction. Negotiation research conducted by Uri Simonsohn at the University of Pennsylvania and Francesca Gino of Harvard Business School examine choice bracketing, or the tendency to group large numbers of different choices into sets, and offers a case study of conflict management when principals are tasked with choosing among large numbers of disparate choices.

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: Conflict Resolution – Emotion and Judgment – Negotiation research conducted by University of Iowa neuroscientists Antoine Bechara, Daniel Tranel, and Hanna Damasio uses a case study of conflict management to focus on the effect of emotion on decision making using a card selection game.

How do you keep your emotions in check during conflict resolution? Share your approach in the comments.

Related Conflict Resolution Article: MESO, Negotiation, and Dealing with Difficult People: Make Multiple Equivalent Simultaneous Offers to Create Value in Dealmaking


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 17, 2013.