Expressing Emotions You Do Not Feel Can Benefit Your Negotiations

Studies have shown that emotional expression can occur independently from feelings, making expression an important factor in negotiations.

Marwan Sinaceur and Larissa Tiedens of Stanford University found that negotiators made more concessions when facing counterparts who expressed (but did not necessarily feel) anger. Not only did those who expressed anger benefit by claiming more value, but they also did not lose their ability to create value.

While experienced emotions may direct the way in which you process information, emotional expressions seem to influence your counterpart’s social inferences and subsequent behavior.

Expressing positive emotions may increase the willingness of your counterpart to agree to your proposals and to view you and the situation in a better light.

While putting your counterpart in a good mood is a useful strategy, it often can seem like an impossible goal.

In fact, people transmit feelings to each other subconsciously, mimicking each other’s facial expressions, body language, and speech patterns.

If you smile, it’s likely your counterpart will, too, which in turn may incline him to become happier.

What this means is that negotiators may find it a smart strategy to express emotions that they do not necessarily experience.

For instance, it can make sense to be especially warm and friendly early in the negotiation, so as to catalyze positive emotions in your counterpart at this stage, when value creation is most likely to occur.

In later stages of the process, you might choose to express more negative emotions, such as anger, in an attempt to claim additional value for yourself.

From the Program on Negotiation, Harvard Law School, Emotional Expression in Negotiation