Negotiating Genuinely: Mindfully and Strategically Leading with Emotions

March 5, 2015

By: Max Branson


To most, the word negotiation conjures a win-lose situation. Professor Shirli Kopelman, however, believes it’s possible to bring to mind an entirely different image—it can be as simple as asking yourself the question, “Negotiate to build what? In this reframed question, negotiators might imagine themselves as profit architects, which opens up possibilities for people “to negotiate genuinely to co-create resources and build sustainable business relationships in a global economy.”

But how do we become profit architects? How do we move beyond being mere negotiators to negotiating genuinely? Well, we don’t just act out a role. We bring ourselves to the conversation—that is, who we are beyond our professional role in a particular negotiation at work. According to Professor Kopelman, “a person-to-person interaction brings in additional resources. It enables us to look at the negotiation process not just as a strategic interaction, but also as a genuine interaction. A role actor is different from a person.”

Negotiating genuinely is not only about “who we are when we negotiate,” but also about mindfully and strategically leading with emotions. Positive and negative emotions are valuable resources that fuel your behaviors, energize you, and allow you to strengthen relationships. In their chapter in How to Be a Positive Leader, Kopelman and her coauthor Professor Ramaswami Mahalingam helpfully outline how relational mindfulness fosters a deep positive connection between negotiators and enables leading with emotions. To cultivate relational mindfulness:

Be Balanced: “[This] requires being nonjudgmental and non-reactive to your own emotions and to those displayed by others. To be nonjudgmental suggests accepting the present emotions as your current reality, a reality that can be changed, and yet currently is. For example, you may feel extremely anxious anticipating a complex negotiation. Even if you wish you had not gotten anxious, you are experiencing anxiety. To be nonreactive suggests not internally responding to this feeling of anxiety, whether by judging yourself for experiencing the emotion, or by acting on the emotion.”

Rejoice and Be Kind: “To rejoice with the happiness of others strengthens your social ties in any negotiation. Beyond being able to experience sympathetic joy in the positive outcomes of others, relational mindfulness includes being friendly and kind to others. Kindness is not a passive state, but an active practice. Cultivating kindness toward others encompasses intentional thoughts, feelings, and behavior.”

Be Compassionate: “Compassion refers not only to your capacity to feel others’ suffering or pain but also refers to your capacity to take some action to alleviate others’ pain. Compassion helps you cultivate patience to regulate emotions toward those who are suffering and also toward those who might be hurting you. It is critical in organizational contexts. Compassion, when directed toward yourself, also helps you to accept your own shortcomings and manage associated emotions.”

To learn more, pick up a copy of Professor Kopelman’s book, Negotiating Genuinely: Being Yourself in Business

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