Anger in negotiation

My last article was about emotions in negotiations. In this article, I will write about one of our deepest and uncontrollable emotions: anger

This obscure reptilian freak, hidden in all of us and what we try to put under the rug while smiling at the world despite all the frustrations of our wonderful modern life!

Most research on negotiations has shown that anger could be a good tactic.

It can get you larger concessions during the negotiation process than other emotions that are paradoxically more socially acceptable.

Letting anger occur in the negotiation process won’t always generate a fair agreement because using anger is trying to demonstrate power, although it could be a tactic to try to be in charge of the session and then cool down the parties for going more toward win-win negotiations.

William Ury in his worldwide best-selling book "Getting to Yes" evokes the fact that evacuating anger can prepare the ground for major win-win negotiations.

What is anger after all? It is saying forcefully to the audience: I am here and count on me to express my frustrations, my beliefs and my wishes whether you want it or not; it is not childish, it is showing EMOTIONS in a disruptive and eruptive way.

Let’s take several multi-cultural environments in Eindhoven like Philips, ASML or NXP for instance, where people from all over the world work together. I am sure people get angry sometimes, and that people react differently to these behaviors.

I was wondering if a lot of those different reactions could be explained only by cultural backgrounds.

Studies about anger in Negotiation have been mostly been carried out in Western populations. One of my Negotiation teachers has decided to study how intercultural differences interfere and affect negotiation outcomes. He did a simple pragmatic experiment using students as volunteers.

Half were Americans of European ethnicity and half were Asian or Asian American. Each student took part in a negotiation on a computer for a simulation case.

They were told that they were negotiating with another participant, but they were actually negotiating with a computer program reproducing human behaviors. The student was supposed to sell a mobile phone, and make deals on issues like the warranty period and the price.

In some negotiations, the computer said it was angry about the negotiation, in others, it did not mention any ”negative” emotion.

European Americans made larger concessions to an angry opponent than to a non-emotional opponent.

Asians and Asian Americans, however, made smaller concessions if their opponent was angry rather than non-emotional and more rational.

A subsequent experiment suggested that this may happen because of cultural norms about whether it’s appropriate to get angry or not.

Now, what is truly interesting about this experiment is that the simulation program started by telling the participants that expressing anger was acceptable or not during this study.

Asians and Asian Americans made greater concessions to an angry opponent if they were told that expressing anger was acceptable. And European Americans were less likely to make concessions if they were told that anger was unacceptable.

When anger expressions are perceived as inappropriate, people tend to react negatively. They no longer want to concede; they may even want to shut down and potentially penalize the counterpart for acting inappropriately.

Veronika Beaussant
I.N.A (Integrative Negotiation Approach)

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