How to De-escalate Your Counterpart’s Anger

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What happens when a negotiation spins out of control and everyone is angry? How do you deal with a counterparts’ emotion? Do you simply walk away? Or reschedule? Dealing with strong emotions can be one of the most difficult parts of a negotiation. It’s also one of the topics of conversation in episode #175 of the Negotiations Ninja podcast. Svitlana Kalitsun—a negotiation trainer based in Vienna, Austria—shares how you can de-escalate your counterpart’s anger.

Don’t tell someone to “calm down.”

Rookie mistake, right? Telling someone to calm down has probably never worked and likely just escalates the situation further. Instead, Svitlana recommends letting your counterpart release their anger. Let them talk the feelings out. She points out that the plus side of anger is that it is usually a short-lived emotion that is exhausting.

Most people make the mistake to jump back into the argument and rile things up. Do not jump into the conversation or cut them off. It is better to put yourself on hold and let them talk. But what do you do next?

Give them a break (and eat a Kit-Kat)

Svitlana prefers to request a break after emotional conversations. If you don’t, it often feels like the proverbial elephant in the room. If you’re unable to take a break, she recommends opening a door or window for some fresh air. Or offer to grab them coffee or something to eat. Both can change the atmosphere in the room and shift it toward something more positive.

Svitlana believes that requesting a break is a signal of control in a negotiation. It shows that you are capable of remaining calm and cool. You get to decide if you want to be in the room or not. You get to decide to negotiate or not. Of course, the default is to stay and fight. But removing yourself from the equation temporarily can be a clever move. But what’s next?

It’s all about asking the right questions

How do you deal with the issue? How do you move forward? By addressing the issue directly. Start over by asking questions. You can say “I feel that you’re getting angry.” Talk about how you’re feeling from your perspective of the situation. Then ask them to help you understand. Lastly, listen.

They may be angry at the situation or sensitive about a particular topic. Maybe it’s an area they’ve never been challenged in. Maybe it’s holy ground. Maybe they’ve been slighted in the past and they’re carrying baggage. There are so many reasons someone may lose their cool in a negotiation. Always ask, ask, ask, until they’ve said their last word.

Why is getting to the root of emotions important for moving forward? How should you handle your emotions in a negotiation? How do you de-escalate your counterpart’s anger? Listen to episode #175 of the Negotiations Ninja podcast to learn more about the flipside.