Build relationship in negotiation: a parable

You meet with your boss to discuss an increase in pay. You have decided to stick to the facts; to avoid all emotion in negotiation.  As you present your case you remember those who rely on you to do the work but earn more than you. Your voice takes on edge. There is nothing you can do about it. Your boss adopts a defensive stance. Your next point comes across way too aggressive. You lose ground.  The pitch in your voice goes up. The atmosphere in the room is charged. Your mind spins as you search for a way out of the conflict. Your boss takes on a terse tone and refers to the ‘transparent and fair’ methods used to set salaries. Your emotions explode as you process this unexpected diversion into policy. The meeting continues downhill…


The way of pure logic may be valuable on the bridge of the Starship Enterprise, but relationships are an integral component in negotiating with real people.  And relationships run on emotions.  The way of pure logic is not effective, sorry dude!  Photo from the Star Trek website

Build relationship in negotiation, a reality we dare not ignore. Ok that sounded obvious to me. Then I realised how many people enter all negotiations to ‘win at any cost’.

This  Five Point model comes from “Building Agreement’ by Fisher and Shapiro. I googled ‘emotions negotiation’ and found an article by Prof Stuart Diamond titled ‘Emotion – the enemy of Negotiation’. The article is based on his book ‘Getting More – How to Negotiate to Achieve your goals in the Real World’. I found the article interesting.  Prof Diamond says when people get emotional they divert their attention from communication goals, interests, and needs.  They focus instead on punishment, revenge, and retaliation. Emotions, he says, lead to irrational behaviour. He suggests our strategy should be to understand the picture in the head of the other party.

According to Fisher and Shapiro, we ignore emotions at our peril.  But, they caution, do not try to address the emotions.  Rather address the concerns.  Rather build relationship.

I find this fascinating! Two congruent approaches, with headings diametrically opposed.  Here is the rest of the Fisher-Shapiro model.

Even positive emotions are a double-edged sword as we build relationship

Emotions can be an asset as we build relationship. Positive emotions:

  • Create intrinsic enjoyment from the interpersonal interaction. We can enjoy the experience of negotiation, the camaraderie, without fear of personal attack. We can challenge points on which we disagree, raising the conflict, knowing that our relationship can handle it.
  • Reduce fear and suspicion, making us open to new and challenging ideas. Adversaries become colleagues.
  • Motivate us to get more done, more efficiently.


Positive emotions can also lull us into overconfidence and making unwise concessions.  Therefore preparatory work is required to set up the bounds of a negotiation and to develop an understanding of your own and the other party’s positions and Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement (BATNA).

These three approaches to emotions in negotiation don’t work:

  • Pretending you can stop your emotions. Your emotions will surface in a negotiation. Unchecked, they will affect the negotiation, usually to a greater extent than you planned.
  • Ignoring your emotions. Emotions are always there and they affect us to a larger or greater extent. Our emotions affect our body, our thinking and our behaviour. Thinking lags behind strong emotions and we can find ourselves saying or doing things we later regret. Steeped in negative emotions we are more likely to miss concessions being made by your counterpart in a negotiation.
  • Managing emotions directly. We can learn skills to deal with our anger and our fear for instance. However working with every emotion as it comes up in a negotiation will keep us busy and will take our attention away from the content in the discourse.

‘Negotiation’ covers a broad range of interaction.  It is effective to approach every interaction in and organisational context as a negotiation.   In fact, any interaction between two people.

How can we use emotions to build relationship?

In any interaction we all carry five generic concerns.  If you choose to deal with these five concerns you will address most, if not all of the emotions that can derail a negotiation.

There is overlap between these five considerations and each one provides a perspective on how well a negotiation is proceeding. When each of these core concerns is met appropriately we can know that we are being treated:

  • Equitably: as others would be treated in a similar circumstance.
  • Honesty: That we are being told the truth.
  • Consistently: that our treatment is in-line with changing situations.

As you build relationship, the five core concerns are:

  • Appreciation: Our thoughts, feelings and actions are acknowledged as having merit.
  • Affiliation: We are treated as a colleague – not an adversary
  • Autonomy: Our freedom to decide on important matters is respected by others.
  • Status: Our standing is given full recognition, where it is deserved.
  • Role: We find our activities fulfilling and our role describes what we do.


Feeling unappreciated signals a ‘put-down’. To appreciate someone, put yourself in their shoes. Ask yourself what they are feeling that may be making them behave in an unexpected way. We can appreciate others by:

  • Understanding their point of view.
  • Finding merit in what they think, feel, or do.
  • Communicating our understanding through words or action. We can appreciate ourselves too.



Negotiators who feel alone and disconnected are prone to negative emotions. We can address this feeling by building structural connections as colleagues and personal connections as confidantes. We should use every opportunity to build affiliation.

To build links with colleagues from the outset:

  • Meet in an informal setting and keep the meeting informal.
  • Sit side by side.
  • Refer to the importance of their interests.
  • Emphasize the nature of the task you both face.
  • Avoid dominating the conversation.
  • Make yourself indebted to them.
  • Plan joint activities.



Recognize that everyone wants freedom to affect or make decisions.  To expand your autonomy:

  • Make a recommendation.
  • Invent options before deciding.
  • Do joint brainstorming.
  • Avoid impinging on others’ autonomy. Do not give away what is theirs.



Status refers to our standing in the community within which we find ourselves. The rule is to treat everyone with respect. Then, no one likes to feel demeaned. Rather than compete with others over who has the higher social status, we can acknowledge everyone’s areas of particular status, including our own.  (Be aware of status and be courteous to everyone).

Be very careful of assumptions you make about the status of people in the room.  A very macho executive in a company I worked for had a presentation to the executive team of a possible client.  As we set up the equipment an attractive young blonde lady came in to help.  My guy asked if she could organise a coffee while he set up, which she did.  She was very helpful in spite of him referring to her as “girlie”.   Then when he was ready to roll, he looked at his watch and said “Girlie, please won’t you call your MD, we are ready”.  To which she replied, most graciously I thought, “I am here”.  Which signalled the end of the pitch.

Status may be built on specific skills, education, mental capacity, connections (relationships), life experience, and strength.



An unfulfilling role leaves us feeling trivialised and unengaged. Yet we are free to choose roles that help us and others work together (we do not have to accept the role offered by another’s behaviour). And we can expand the activities within any role to make them more fulfilling. A fulfilling role has three qualities:

  • The purpose of the role is clear.
  • It is personally meaningful.
  • It is not pretence.