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5 Ways to Control Your Emotions During Negotiations

By |August 22, 2022

Even the most talented negotiators struggle with their emotions from time to time. 

At the end of the day, emotions are one thing we can’t fully control. We’re all human, and it’s only a matter of time before we respond to something or someone with emotion. That’s just the way it is.

Although you can’t prevent emotions from affecting negotiations, you can devise a plan to reduce their impact. With that in mind, let’s look at five ways to control your emotions during negotiations and experience better business outcomes.

a woman negotiates a contract with a man while sitting in a conference room

1. Be prepared.

Nobody rises to the occasion. We fall to our highest level of preparation. 

To control your emotions during negotiations, you first need to prepare for the fact that you may become emotional at some point in the process. At the same time, you need to thoroughly prepare for the negotiation by outlining your goals, summarizing your counterpart’s position, coming up with a list of go-to Labels™ you can use, and having a robust list of  Accusation Audits®

Need some help getting ready for your next negotiation? Download the “Negotiation One-Sheet” today.

2. Be in the right mindset.

To control your emotions during negotiations, you need to be in the right mindset. This is where The Black Swan Group’s acronym C.A.V.I.AA.R™ can be particularly helpful. 

By staying curious and accepting that you’re going to get attacked during the conversation—and that those attacks may cause you to become emotional—you will be ready to control those emotions when they arise.

Venting ahead of time with someone you can trust is also key. Deflating some of those possible triggers before the negotiation or difficult conversation will lessen the likelihood of a reaction in the moment.

3. Expect that you’ll make mistakes.

As a human being, you are not perfect. During any negotiation, it’s only a matter of time before you misstep. 

It’s one thing to make a mistake during a negotiation. It’s quite another to let that mistake rattle you and derail your efforts. By going into the conversation expecting that you will make mistakes, you won’t be as flustered when they happen.

The skills in the Black Swan Method are very forgiving. If you’ve prepared and gone in with the proper mindset, recovering from a misstep will be that much easier.

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4. Expect the unexpected.

You can’t predict the future, meaning you never know how a negotiation will turn out until it’s in the rear-view mirror. 

When you prepare for the worst-case scenario—for things to go off the rails entirely—you will be in a better mental place and prepared to respond appropriately if it actually happens. Staying curious and looking for the motivation, or the “why” behind, what the other side is saying or thinking will help to keep an emotional reaction at bay.

5. Find a mitigation technique that works for you.

If your goal is to control your emotions during negotiations, you need to find tactics you can use to calm yourself down and stay cool and collected when the going gets tough. 

For example, Brandon Voss, Black Swan’s president, uses a quick rhyme to center himself when he gets flustered: 3, 2, 1, 1, 2, 3, what the heck is bothering me? 

I’ve found that using Labels on myself can be particularly helpful. When I feel myself sliding during a negotiation, I might use a Label like this in my inner monologue: It seems like I’m losing my mind.

There’s no right or wrong tactic here. You just need to find a technique that works for you and stick with it.

How can you recover from an emotional outburst?

Even when you actively work on controlling your emotions, there will still be times when they will get the best of you. So how can you recover if you lose your cool at the table?

Easy: Use a Label to acknowledge your miscue and demonstrate understanding. I’m so sorry. It looks like I’ve lost my mind.  A few Accusation Audits before the conversation continues may also help: You might think I’m one of the craziest people you’ve ever dealt with, and you may even be wondering if we should still try to do business together. 

By calling yourself out and acknowledging your errors, you can build trust with your counterpart. By auditing the negative thoughts and feelings that your outburst provoked on the other side you can overcome the fears created and still get the deal done.

Now that you know how to control your emotions during a negotiation, it’s time to continue your negotiation education. Learn more about the person sitting across the table from you by downloading our free guide, Three Negotiator Types.

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