This Time With Feeling!

Going in to negotiate a new job’s details? Don’t leave your emotional barometer behind.

Now that you’ve found the perfect fit, it’s time to negotiate those not-so-trivial details: salary, vacation time, and (hey, it’s worth a shot) Tuesday afternoons off for your kid’s soccer game. To prepare, you call to mind that classic negotiation wisdom: Don’t get emotional. Right? Wrong, say Roger Fisher, coauthor of Getting to Yes (Houghton Mifflin, 1981), and Daniel Shapiro, both of the Harvard Negotiation Project. In their new book, Beyond Reason (Viking, October), they argue that emotions in negotiations–whatever the topic–aren’t so bad after all. Tapping into what you and the other person feel is actually critical for getting what you want. Here’s how.


Press the right buttons.

Fisher and Shapiro believe the emotions we experience during negotiations are triggered by whether or not our five “core concerns” are being met. These include appreciation (Are our thoughts being valued?), autonomy (Do we feel some level of control?), affiliation (Are we finding connections with the other person?), status (Are our differences in standing recognized?), and role (Is our need to feel fulfilled being acknowledged?). Your future boss has the same concerns. Knowing these switches–and how to flip them–gives you a list to tick through in your head during the heat of the moment.

Sweat the small stuff.

People reveal their feelings in the subtlest ways–darting eyes, sweaty brows, or a tense tapping of the foot. But even those faint signs are screaming at you compared with what Fisher and Shapiro call “meta-messages,” or the meaning hidden behind some statements. Listen carefully for emphasis–“I’d love to hire you”–and you’ll find valuable negotiating hints. For example, if you sense hesitation about your hiring from the rest of management, ask if there’s a way to reassure them. This will show you’re a team player, making your future boss more confident in her choice and–if you’re lucky–more amenable to your requests.

Don’t just punch a pillow.

Strong negative emotions have a place in negotiations; it’s just tricky to know how to use them. Say you’re called in for a follow-up and are offered the job, perks and all. Then your interviewer announces that there’s more to the job description than you originally thought. Go ahead and say you’re surprised and bothered this is coming up now–just do it carefully, explaining that you feel a little misled and need time to consider the new information. Repressing your anger will only start off your dream job on a bitter note.