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Building the Emotionally Learned Negotiator


Erin Ryan


Lewis & Clark Law School


Negotiation Journal, April 2006

Abstract:     
This piece reviews three recent books on the significance of emotion in negotiation and dispute resolution (Fisher & Shapiro: Beyond Reason: Using Emotions as You Negotiate; Peter Ladd: Mediation, Conciliation and Emotion: A Practitioner's Guide for Understanding Emotions in Dispute Resolution; and Lacey Smith: Get It! Street-Smart Negotiation at Work: How Emotions Get You What You Want), situating each work within a theory of practice for emotionally learned negotiators.

After discussing the how the appearance of emotional sterility became synonymous with professionalism (and the toll this has taken on professional interaction), the piece sets forth a functional theory of emotion in negotiation based on four elements: emotion as (1) ether, (2) obstacle, (3) episteme, and (4) instrument. To cast emotion as ether (the ether of human experience) is to understand the inevitability of emotional impacts on negotiated exchange. For many, emotion in negotiation is encountered as an obstacle (that which obstructs mechanical application of established negotiating techniques). The more sophisticated negotiator recognizes emotionality as episteme (the medium of insight by which we consult interests and hypothesize about others) - a means for better understanding herself, the people she deals with, and a good deal else about the world. Finally, the emotionally learned negotiator uses emotion not only epistemologically but also instrumentally (as a tool for achieving desired ends), taking affirmative steps to help manage the emotional climate within a negotiation. She uses her emotional skills to mitigate undesired emotions and engender preferred emotions within herself and other participants: to soothe, bolster, win respect, build trust, and encourage creativity. The emotionally learned negotiator thus uses emotions not only as tools of knowing, but as instruments of persuasion.

The new series of books on the subject offer strategies by which negotiators can learn to better integrate emotional skills into negotiation, among the most emotionally-charged of professional spheres. While the three books share the central premise that emotionality plays a critical role in the unfolding dynamics of all negotiations, each offers its own primary lesson.

Lacey Smith's business-oriented Get It! examines how the emotions of hope and fear can be both tools and obstacles to the interest-based bargaining method we first learned in Roger Fisher's classic, Getting to Yes. Fisher and Shapiro's Beyond Reason takes the Getting to Yes method to the next level of sophistication, providing a taxonomy of core emotional concerns that underlie individual negotiators' behavior, and with it a Seven-Elements - like structure from which to prepare, advance, and overcome emotional obstacles in each negotiating context. Peter Ladd's Mediation, Conciliation and Emotions expands the analysis of emotional content in a negotiation from the individual to the shared experience, exploring the establishment of emotional climates that arise between individuals and offering empirically based counsel for mediators and conciliators about how to help remedy undesirable emotional climates and create emotional climates more conducive to problem-solving. No book has all the answers we need, but each makes a valuable contribution to the field.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 18

Keywords: emotion, negotiation, mediation, conciliation, epistemology

JEL Classification: K39, Z10

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Date posted: March 9, 2006  

Suggested Citation

Ryan, Erin, Building the Emotionally Learned Negotiator. Negotiation Journal, April 2006. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=886106

Contact Information

Erin Ryan (Contact Author)
Lewis & Clark Law School ( email )
10015 S.W. Terwilliger Blvd.
Portland, OR 97219
United States
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