“On several occasions I got so angry at the other side’s actions that I wrote a nasty e-mail and shot it off. Fortunately, it didn’t destroy the negotiations. But I’m worried my temper will cause bigger problems next time. What should I do?”
This comment, from a highly successful chief executive, hits a chord in many of my clients. For who hasn’t sent an e-mail in the heat of the moment and then wished to retract it?
What should we do?
Take a break.
In his groundbreaking book “Emotional Intelligence,” Daniel Goleman writes that “cooling off physiologically by waiting out the adrenal surge (caused by anger)” is one way to de-escalate anger and its negative impact. Bottom line: Take a break.
But don’t just take a break and stew over the issue. That’s counterproductive. Instead, Goleman recommends you do something pleasurable that will distract you from the issue, like take a walk. You might also write that nasty reply e-mail but then park it in your draft folder and not send it until you can more reasonably evaluate what to do.
By the way, some believe venting anger is helpful, at least to the person feeling it. Goleman found this contrary to the research, noting that “ventilating anger is one of the worst ways” to deal with it, as it simply leads to escalation and more anger. Instead, he suggests, cool down and then address it.
Examine the cause of your feeling.
Why do you feel angry? Is it because your counterpart lied; responded to your reasonable offer with a superaggressive counter; and/or engaged in unethical negotiation games, like nibbling at the end (asking for more when you already had a deal)?
The list of possible causes is nearly endless. All, however, share one common element: They relate to actions taken by your counterpart. So, examine what your counterpart might have been trying to accomplish with those actions.
Was he or she trying to push your button so you would react out of anger? Perhaps cultural differences played a role, and it was a misunderstanding. Or maybe your counterpart lied about a previous commitment because his or her leverage had weakened since that commitment and it would be extremely expensive to fulfill it.
Whatever the reason, figure it out if you can. Only then can you determine how best to respond.
Of course, your possible strategic responses also are numerous depending on what your counterpart was doing and trying to accomplish. But always evaluate whether and how to incorporate these elements into your response:
— Information-gathering about your counterpart’s action. Perhaps call the person up, share your feeling and reaction and explore why it happened)
— Objective criteria or standards, like market value, as these can often depersonalize the environment; and
— Leverage, especially your Plan B if your deal (Plan A) doesn’t move forward.
Thomas Jefferson once said, “When angry, count 10 before you speak; if very angry, a hundred.” It’s sage negotiating advice.
Published February 1, 2013 The Arizona Republic