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Navigating Emotional Expressions in Negotiation

Is emotional expressiveness important in negotiation? And if it is, what kind of emotions should you express? And can—or should—you control spontaneous emotional expressions?

Spontaneous expressions and deliberate expressions come from separate motor neuron pathways. You don’t have full control over the spontaneous pathway like you do the deliberate pathway. Only about 10% of people can falsify spontaneous emotions. That’s why it’s so difficult to control the emotions being written across your face.

When someone tries to cover up these spontaneous expressions, we unconsciously recognize that it’s falsified. If those lip corner depressors are pulled down and quickly pulled up, it gives us a hint that that person has had a spontaneous true emotion that they tried to control.

When you see someone cover up an emotion, ask yourself, “What have I just said that that person isn’t happy about and doesn’t want me to know they’re not happy about?”

Does feigning disappointment work as a negotiation tactic?

Dr. Maroño states that most people can’t feign disappointment and sadness well because humans don’t have full control over those muscles. But if you want to express disappointment, think about something that disappointed you leading into your interaction. You’re more likely to naturally display disappointment.

It’s also difficult to stop a true emotion from occurring. Some people are more expressive than others. When they try to control their expressions, it becomes obvious. So it’s important to understand how to change that spontaneous emotion into something you can utilize rather than showing it and trying to cover it up.

Instead of trying to fake the emotion, use the emotion in a different context. If something makes you happy or sad, work it into the context of what you’re saying.

Emotional expressiveness and body language

Do certain behaviors become apparent in your counterpart after a certain question or topic?

A research study conducted on pregnant women found that when the women were stressed, their babies touched their faces. Touching one’s face as a sign of stress is ingrained in humans. Why do we do it? It helps regulate the nervous system.

We touch the lips, the face, and the hands because signals are sent to the brain faster. It’s calming. So when we are overly stressed, we might push on our eyeballs and rub them. We do it unconsciously because it helps calm us.

The goal is to make someone feel safe

We want to make people feel safe. You want to share information with someone you trust. We would rather have a worse deal with someone we trust than a better deal with someone that we don’t because it seems too good to be true. So you want to focus on being perceived as trustworthy to help someone feel safe.

Humans want to share information. We don’t like to withhold information because it takes cognitive effort. After someone has given out information, you see relief written across their faces. You have to show that you’re someone they’re safe to give that information to.

When we are aggressive and use interview tactics that make someone feel interrogated, it builds resistance, creates stress and anxiety, and releases cortisol. Cortisol blocks memory retrieval, which is where you see false confessions. You can’t neurologically access information when you’re stressed as well as when you are calm.

So what do you do instead? And how do you appear more trustworthy so someone is willing to share information with you? Dr. Abbie Maroño shares how to build trustworthiness into your interactions via nonverbal communication in episode #331 of Negotiations Ninja. Check it out!