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Emotion in Negotiation

by Nancy Hudgins
October 2008

From the blog of Nancy Hudgins

Nancy  Hudgins
If you think about it, emotion plays a large part in negotiation. It’s the elephant in the room that we, as lawyers, mostly ignore, because we’ve been taught and trained to think logically through a problem. The focused use of the brain for problem solving, ipso facto, means that there’s less engagement of the brain for measuring the gestalt of the situation and the emotional temperature of your client and yourself.

If you think I’m off the mark here, think back to your last several mediations. How many times did you have to calm down your client because he or she was angry with a settlement proposal from the other side? How many times were you personally upset by a proposal from the other side? It’s not just our client’s emotions we have to deal with; it’s ours as well.

I know I’m talking about stuff we don’t like to think about. Our comfort zone is in logical analysis. I think we’re kidding ourselves, though, if we don’t anticipate emotion in negotiation and if we don’t have strategies to deal with it.

This is the first of several posts on emotion in negotiation I’m planning to write between now and the end of the year. I hope you’ll join the conversation.

Update. I see my friend Stephanie West Allen over at Brains on Purpose and I are channeling the same thoughts. Her latest post on emotion in negotiation is here.

Geek update. The photograph is my first attempt at “photoshopping.” My thanks to Lesa King at The Graphic Reporter for teaching me about the “magic extractor” at the PowerPoint Live 2008 convention. Check out her “how-to” post here.


Nancy Hudgins, a San Francisco mediator and lawyer, began specializing in civil litigation in the 1970's. She has represented both plaintiffs and defendants, chiefly in personal injury, medical malpractice, elder abuse and product liability lawsuits, but also in a wide variety of complex litigation, including civil rights, fraud and class actions. She has settled and mediated thousands of cases. In addition to civil litigation mediation, she also co-mediates divorces with John Duda, a marriage and family therapist.

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