Managing Emotions in Negotiation: Teaching Students to Turn Emotions into an Opportunity for Mutual Gain

By — on / Teaching Negotiation

bad news in negotiation

How do you move from an emotionally charged moment in a negotiation to a mutually beneficial agreement?

In negotiations of all types, whether buying a house or negotiating a company acquisition, emotions naturally manifest. Left unaddressed, emotions can derail a negotiation and make agreement seem impossible. When emotions are managed properly, however, they can allow the parties to create value, better understand underlying interests, and come to a mutually beneficial agreement.

In Beyond Reason, authors Roger Fisher and Daniel Shapiro illustrate the five “core concerns” that motivate people: appreciation, affiliation, autonomy, status, and role. Through recognizing and dealing with these core concerns, negotiators can move emotions in a constructive direction. Identifying and managing these core concerns does take practice. The Teaching Negotiation Resource Center (TNRC) has a variety of role simulations that can help students practice how to deal with emotions in negotiation.

The Hospital Committee – Featured Simulation

This multiparty, one hour negotiation is among hospital committee members over the allocation of scarce life-saving resources. A hospital located in a small town has a serious dilemma: the facility only has two dialysis machines which are now in demand by seven community residents with kidney failure. The patients include: a 33 year-old professional athlete, a middle-aged housewife and mother, a male model in his fifties, a 28 year-old factory worker, a corporate executive in his thirties, a child prodigy, and a middle-aged orthopedic surgeon. Without treatment, each patient will die, but only three patients can use the available machines. The machines are extremely expensive, and money to buy a third, let alone a fourth, is simply unavailable at this time. Accommodating more patients for fewer hours subjects each patient to substantially greater risk, and can postpone a choice for no longer than a week or two. The members of the Kidney Dialysis Committee are members of the community who have been asked to serve by the hospital administration. They have been given information about each patient, and have been asked to decide, confidentially, who will and who won’t receive treatment. Major lessons of this simulation include:

  • Exploring psychological awareness and illustrating emotional reactions and nonverbal communication.
  • The intensity of the psychological dimension adds considerable power to struggles over group process and control.
  • The question of what constitutes “fairness,” “objective criteria,” and societal “norms,” and the extent to which those concepts can exist outside perceptions colored by our personal values.

To learn more about this simulation, download a free preview copy of the Hospital Committee Teacher’s Package.

Rose Lane – Featured Simulation

This two-party, email-based, multi-issue issue negotiation deals with a dispute between neighbors over one sharing their home on a home-sharing website, and having difficult conversations in relationships with low trust. Schmidt, a branch manager of a local bank, reaches out via email to their next-door neighbor, Harberer, about the use of their home on the popular home-sharing site, HomeBNB. Schmidt has grown increasingly frustrated by the prevalence of frequent large groups of rock climbers, who party and play music late into the night. Schmidt has attempted to reach out to Haberer through various channels but has not been able to make contact. Frustrated with their inability to contact Haberer, Schmidt mobilized the neighborhood’s social media group where they initially received significant support. After two years of increasing frustration, Schmidt has reached out to the local government and was surprised with their response: come to a resolution within 30 days or we’ll bring your case to the larger governing body and make a region-wide ruling. Major lessons of this simulation include:

  • Identifying challenges related to negotiating via email and generating strategies to overcome these challenges.
  • Negotiating with very weak alternatives (BATNA).
  • Having difficult conversations in relationships with low trust.

To learn more about this simulation, download a free preview copy of the Rose Lane Teacher’s Package.

Casino Two – Featured Simulation

This two-party, two hour intra-organizational discussion, an updated version of the original, is between a newly promoted manager and her division vice-president over work performance, responsibility for a new computer game project, and office environment issues. Jamie and Allison are both employees at Digital Development, a male-dominated Silicon Valley start-up that makes profitable phone apps. Jamie is the vice president for Programming and recently promoted Allison, moving her from the kids and family app team to the gaming team. Jamie feels that Allison has not been performing well in her new position. The two are meeting to discuss her performance and then negotiate next steps. Major lessons of this simulation include:

  • Those parties willing to consider the perceptions and interests of the other party as relevant can usually engage effectively in mutually beneficial joint problem solving.
  • The skills involved in separating the people from the problem are especially important in this negotiation as emotions between formerly friendly people may run high.
  • If the participants choose to try to resolve workplace environment difficulties, they must face the fact that whatever they decide will have an impact on those around them.

To learn more about this simulation, download a free preview copy of the Casino Two Teacher’s Package.

Neighborhood Care – Featured Simulation

This two-party, three-hour negotiation or mediation is between church and neighborhood representatives over the possible use of church facilities to provide services for the mentally challenged. Neighborhood Care, Inc. is a non-profit mental health organization that provides counseling and recreational health services to mentally challenged adults and teenagers. Neighborhood Care would like to rent space in a local church, and the church is interested. Local residents oppose the idea and plan on staging a protest at the next zoning hearing, when the church will seek a permit to operate a Neighborhood Care facility. The situation is also complicated by the fact that the church is located in a neighborhood in which most residents are of a different religious faith. Major lessons of this simulation include:

  • Partisan perceptions: This exercise illustrates how and why groups with competing interests or concerns can view the same situation in different ways.
  • Mediator issues: The difficulties facing mediators trying to gain entry into community disputes are illustrated, especially the problem of maintaining neutrality.
  • Identifying success: The prospects for developing written agreements in community conflicts are presented. The difficulties of defining a “good” outcome in a community dispute are also highlighted.
  • Implementation: Review of the agreement reached in the real-life case highlights the problem of implementing informed negotiated agreements.

To learn more about this simulation, download a free preview copy of the Neighborhood Care Teacher’s Package.

In addition to these simulations, also check out Beyond Reason: Using Emotions as You Negotiate by Roger Fisher and psychologist Daniel Shapiro, winner of the 2005 CPR Award for Excellence in ADR (Outstanding Book Category).


Take your training to the next level with the TNRC

The Teaching Negotiation Resource Center offers a wide range of effective teaching materials, including

TNRC negotiation exercises and teaching materials are designed for educational purposes. They are used in college classroom settings or corporate training settings; used by mediators and facilitators seeking to introduce their clients to a process or issue; and used by individuals who want to enhance their negotiation skills and knowledge.

Negotiation exercises and role-play simulations introduce participants to new negotiation and dispute resolution tools, techniques and strategies. Our videos, books, case studies, and periodicals are also a helpful way of introducing students to key concepts while addressing the theory and practice of negotiation.

Check out all that the TNRC has in store >> 

The Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School
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