Humans are wired to think negatively.
According to a 2012 study conducted by the National Science Foundation, as much as 80 percent of our thoughts are negative. Further, the amygdala is structured in such a way that up to 75 percent of it is assigned to negative emotions.
This makes sense because danger and negative emotions require our attention for survival—in business and in life. Because negative feelings cloud thinking, negotiators need to assuage that apprehension to allow the counterpart to engage in collaborative negotiation.
Luckily, there’s an easy way to do that. By using Labels™ to identify the negative emotions your counterpart harbors, you can defuse those sentiments and begin working toward a deal that allows both parties to prosper.
How Labels™ Defuse Negative Emotions
Negative emotions never die if they go unaddressed. When we use Labels based on genuine curiosity, we can expose our counterparts' negative sentiments, even if they are not consciously aware of the adverse thoughts. This can help the other side think more clearly—to the point that they sometimes discover solutions they might not have when their mind was clouded by negativity.
Most people avoid bringing up negative sentiments in difficult conversations. But by confronting the negatives head-on, we immediately come across as a different type of communicator. Our counterpart views us differently because they know we are not avoiding the difficult conversation, but are instead embracing it. That is exactly how you build Tactical Empathy® and move toward trust-based influence.
Keep in mind that you can use this tactic on yourself too. If there’s something negative shadowing your thoughts, self-label that negative to defuse it and clear the fear from your mind.
Neutralizing Negative Emotions with Labels
When you sit down at the table, you should make it all about the other side. In fact, at least 75 percent of your conversation should be about your counterpart.
Lately, my favorite go-to Label is to call out the pressure. Everyone’s under a tremendous amount of pressure, and none of us like to talk about it. So if you can work in a Label about the pressure the other side is undoubtedly facing, you can identify that negative emotion and move that much closer to a deal: It seems like you’re under a great deal of pressure
This simple sentence can go a long way toward making your counterpart feel heard and understood in a way that they haven’t felt in conversations with other people.
Once you clear those negatives away, your counterpart is six times more likely to make a deal with you for one simple reason: We all savor doing business with people we like.
The Big Obstacle with Labels
Labels are meant to be verbal observations of presenting or latent emotions and dynamics. However, if you’re not careful, they can come across as an attack.
For example, if someone is trying to get a deal done unreasonably fast and you’re worried that the result won’t be high quality, you might say: It seems like you’re not concerned about quality issues.
See how that might come across as an attack? What serious business isn’t interested in quality?
There’s a simple fix: It seems like your top priority is speed of production. Or, better yet: It sounds like you have balanced quality and speed before. Either way, you’re pointing out the same issue and, using an upward inflection at the end of your label, getting information in a more tactful way.
It bears repeating: Unaddressed negative emotions never die. Even if you make a deal, negative emotions can rear their ugly head during implementation, bringing you back to square one.
Use Labels to confront those emotions head-on, and you’ll build better relationships and make better deals. What’s not to like?
To continue learning, check out our free e-book: 5 Negotiation Tactics for Dealing with Difficult People.