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Emotion is Your Enemy

Tyler Hall

When negotiating, your emotions can be your worst enemy  


Believe it or not, I used to be a very quick wing on the football (soccer) field. One warm Saturday afternoon, I was matched up against an opponent over whom I was gaining the advantage to the point where I was threatening to score. In his desperate effort to slow me down he reached for and pulled out my eye brow ring – BTW, eyebrow rings were ‘cool then. His tactic worked very well. That stopped me in my tracks as pain shot across my face and blood damaged my vision. Distracted and incensed by this bullying behaviour, I then went on to give the worst performance of my life. Indignation and anger had swept over me and I had lost focus on the game. 


At the professional sport level, the game is often won or lost not because of technical skill (because these people are equally at an elite level). Rather, it is because of the mind, whether it be lack of focus, pressure or letting the opponent “get in his head” that causes a sportsman or woman’s downfall. 


Negotiation is also a game, and poor outcomes can be delivered when we lose our head. From the beginning of time, humans have responded to intense conflict by our fight or flight instincts to survive. This is where the part of the brain called the amygdala is engaged to respond to threats- and rational thinking can go out the window. In a negotiation, we may be treated in an unreasonable manner – this could be by colleagues, bosses, friends or in external relationships. If we allow such treatment to trigger our emotions we may lose control of the situation by fighting back or fleeing. Both responses will likely lead to poor outcomes or deadlocked positions. 


The next time you feel your emotions rising in response to another’s words or treatment, consider taking an adjournment or a time out. This allows the amygdala to calm, and to provide you with the relief from fight or flight instincts to enable you to engage rationally. In the adjournment, think to yourself, OK- they are behaving badly, but is what they are asking for reasonable or unreasonable, because that’s what matters If it is an unreasonable demand, put an unreasonable price on it. If it is a reasonable demand put a reasonable price on it.  


The next time I get my eyebrow ring pulled out, I will take a break, put on a band aid and focus on the game. 


Happy negotiating!

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