From the Mediation Matters Blog of Steve Mehta.
You often hear that you get more with honey than you do with vinegar. However, a study has tested that proverb with surprising results.
Summary of Study
In the January, 2004 edition of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, they studied the effect on anger and happiness in negotiations. The study entitled “The Interpersonal Effects of Anger and Happiness in Negotiations” came to some very interesting conclusions. The study had two experiments. In the first experiment, participants engaged in computer mediated negotiations in which they couldn’t see their opponents. One group was secretly told that the other side was either angry or happy. However, in reality the participants were actually negotiating against a computer that had pre-programmed responses. When the participants were told that the negotiator on the other side was angry, the participants didn’t bargain as hard as when they were told nothing or that the other side was supposed to be happy.
In the second experiment, the participants were told the same information about the state of mind of the opponent. This time, the opponent also provided expressions during the negotiation of either anger or happiness. The study found that again, when participants believed the opponent to be angry, they negotiated less aggressively. However, when participants believed the stated expressions of anger to be disingenuous, the participants deemed the anger as merely an attempt to bluff. However, when the opponents were identified as being consistently angry and demonstrated anger during the negotiation, the participants responded with hardball tactics of their own.
This study has several ramifications to everyday negotiations:
This research is consistent with the recent study of anger that I reported on in a prior post entitled Negotiating Games — Using Anger in Mediation, A Researched Analysis
Anger can be used as an effective tool in negotiating only if it is real. If you believe that it is appropriate to show your anger in a negotiation, then you should take care to not overtly state your anger, but instead let the opponent see the anger through indirect means. However, if you use anger as a ploy to gain tactical advantages, it can easily backfire into escalating the conflict. Overall, whenever you get the urge to throttle someone in a negotiation, step back for a moment and consider whether it is truly necessary to demonstrate your anger or whether the venting of your anger, although initially fulfilling, may do more harm than good.
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