Power of Anger Ineffective against Powerful Negotiators

Listen.

We’re all somewhat afraid of conflict, at least those of us who are not sociopaths.

Men and women both want their days to pass without having accusations hurled at them, without hearing what a frenemy is saying behind their backs, and without stirring their colleagues or clients to anger.

Women, however, do tend to react to a negotiation challenge somewhat more fearful of an angry response than do men.

I’ve said before that men can claim to be unemotional only because they don’t believe anger to be an emotion and I think there’s more truth to that than humor.

I had a client once who was negotiating her bargaining partners toward a million per year. That’s what everyone in her niche was making. The men with whom she was negotiating gave her many reasons why she was an outlier and worth less than her peers (all of whom were men and most of whom were twenty years her senior). But it was she who they listened to at industry conferences. She was the expert. They’d just found a cozy retirement niche.

Eventually, of course, her bargaining partners grew testy and finally one pitched all all-out temper tantrum worthy of a two-year old, telling her she’d never succeed, never reach the heights of the profession she’d already scaled. Told her she was fooling herself. Told her she didn’t deserve it. Told her to get a grip on herself and remember who she was.

We responded with the best negotiation tactic for a bargaining partner who betrays us. We played “tit for tat,” punishing the miscreant proportionally by simply going 36 hours without returning his phone call. When he finally did reach her, he apologized and, on top of that, increased his last offer without responding to a counter. In other words, he apologized by bargaining against himself, just about the only rule young attorneys are taught by their elders. Not to bargain against yourself.

So if you’re worried that your negotiation partner is going to get angry at you, don’t worry. Not only is “tit for tat” a powerful game changer, but recent research cited by the Harvard Program on Negotiation shows that only low-power negotiators [are] strongly influenced by their opponent’s expressions of anger.

Those negotiators who didn’t trust their own power made larger concessions than when no anger was expressed. High power negotiators, however, barely seemed to notice the other side’s emotions; they identified their own true bargaining interests and offered only the concessions necessary to reach a good deal.

Here’s the best news, anyone who wishes can gain the “high power” advantage. According to Harvard, our best strategy, particularly if we’re anticipating an emotion response is to reflect on a time you negotiated with a strong [alternative to a negotiated resolution]. Recall your sense of confidence and control. Generating psychological power can immunize you from your opponent’s angry tactics.

Got that? Add a power pose (arms above your head, hands behind it, standing tall to trigger a flood of testosterone) and you’ll be the leader of the pack.

Vroooom, vroooom, vrooooom.

                        author

Victoria Pynchon

Attorney-mediator Victoria Pynchon is a panelist with ADR Services, Inc. Ms. Pynchon was awarded her LL.M Degree in Dispute Resolution from the Straus Institute in May of 2006, after 25 years of complex commercial litigation practice, with sub-specialties in intellectual property, securities fraud, antitrust, insurance coverage, consumer class actions and all… MORE >

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