The Psychology of Negotiation

Negotiation can happen anywhere and anytime whether it be an entrepreneurial setting or not. Although it may not appear to be akin to psychology, its intertwining mechanisms are too dexterous to be coincidence. Just as psychology is a science flourishing off of the eight-step scientific method, the process of negotiation follows a similar infrastructure. The “principles” of negotiation as they are called include interests, legitimacy, relationships, options, commitments, and lastly communication. Interests are the part of negotiation that remains almost entirely under conscious awareness. All it takes is clues from body language, facial expressions, and even tone of voice to provide answers and potential trajectories into unknown motives, wants, and motivations of the counterpart. One of the most difficult aspects of negotiation is reaching the consensus of legitimacy. In other words, each participant of the negotiation often has an incongruent idea of what a “fair deal” looks like or what the most beneficial outcome looks like. Once legitimacy is achieved the entire trajectory of a negotiation shifts because there is essentially a psychological homeostasis attained. The relationship status within a negotiation gives an accurate gauge of the likelihood of justice and aids in identifying the somewhat unconscious idiosyncrasies of the other party and or parties. The longer the relationship has existed between both counterparts, the greater rapport built, and the more reputation is at risk of being threatened. Without relationships, ethics would be deprived of the chance to develop which is a key in successful negotiation. Furthermore, brainstorming options during a negotiation activates creativity centers in the brain which happen to be the same place where critical thinking occurs: the prefrontal cortex. A basic understanding of human behavior and emotional apparatus can not only make someone a more effective negotiator but an introspective one. Former International FBI Hostage Negotiator, Chris Voss, puts it this way, “The art of negotiation rests on finding common ground with others, making concessions, and demonstrating emotional intelligence and tactical empathy.” A key component of effective negotiation relies on one’s ability to control the sometimes all-too-powerful nudge of emotion. Since human beings are emotion-driven species it can be extremely difficult to inhibit or control emotional reactions. Surprisingly, being in a state of curiosity has proven to be effective emotional sedative if you will. This is because when the brain is engaging in the very act of curiosity, the logic and reasoning centers ignite while the reptilian-emotional centers decline, facilitating a better negotiation. Whether informal or formal, all negotiations apply the same dynamics. That is, preparation, informational exchange, bargaining, and concluding, or executing. Chris Voss and Colleagues argue that negotiation skills may be inherently stronger in women compared to men. Since women are conditioned through gender roles to be nurturers, picking-up emotional cues in negotiation comes easier to them. This is not to say that men are less competent negotiators, it is simply that women’s gender roles act as more of an advantage when it comes to negotiations. It is safe to say that negotiation is an art that involves the brain, body and just about everything in between. 

Information included in this article is inspired by The Jordan B. Peterson Podcast: “Chris Voss and Jordan B. Peterson on Negotiating.”