Enhancing Negotiation and Conflict Resolution with Emotional Intelligence 

Colleagues Shaking each other's Hands
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By Indiana Lee

The idea of cold and hard-nosed business leaders is not exactly en vogue in today’s landscape. Rather, executives and managers across the globe are starting to recognize that emotional intelligence can be a game-changer on multiple levels. This shift in attitudes recognizes that emotions and how we navigate them are an important part of running a business, rather than necessarily a hindrance to it. 

Among the primary benefits of emotional intelligence is how you can handle negotiations and resolve conflicts. Situations in which you have to navigate disagreements or seal a deal can involve a lot of pressure and a range of psychological and emotional influences. The better you can understand and work with emotions, the more effectively you can navigate tough circumstances. So, let’s take a closer look at what emotional intelligence is in these kinds of situations and how to develop the relevant traits. 

What Is Emotional Intelligence? 

There are multiple types of intelligence for business leaders to cultivate in order to achieve success. You may already be familiar with attributes like interpersonal intelligence that helps your professional relationships or the collaborative intelligence that is essential to leading teams. Emotional intelligence, though, is one of the most important for negotiations and conflict resolution. Put simply, it’s your ability to navigate emotions; both your own and those of people around you. 

Let’s break this down a little further to highlight its relevance here. Having a solid sense of your own emotional state empowers you to manage your feelings and behavior. Difficult circumstances, such as disagreements with colleagues or high-pressure negotiations can take a psychological and emotional toll. Your ability to spot early signs of this and the trigger points for the emotions allows you to take effective management measures. 

Similarly, your awareness of others’ emotions makes for more considerate, respectful, and effective interactions. Having the ability to recognize what emotions may be driving conflicts can give you insights into how to manage the situation to a mutually positive outcome. By the same token, understanding the emotional perspectives of negotiation partners can enable you to mirror their emotions to boost your connections or provide reassurances to uncertain partners. 

This makes it essential to develop your skills in emotional intelligence across a range of areas. We’re going to take some time to explore some of the most pertinent of these for negotiation and conflict resolution. 

Self-Awareness and Self-Regulation 

As we’ve already touched upon, self-knowledge is one of the key aspects of emotional intelligence. When you’re developing this ability, you should focus on the twin traits of self-awareness and self-regulation. What this means is that you can more effectively identify and understand your emotional state during challenging situations. You can then manage your emotions to the benefit of the immediate circumstances and your long-term relationships. 

Self-awareness 

Developing your emotional self-awareness is really a process of getting to know yourself better. Make a habit of checking in with yourself throughout the day to note what experiences you’ve had, the emotions you felt from them, and how this influenced your physical and psychological responses. In particular, pay attention to your emotions before and during both conflicts and negotiations. It can help to keep a daily journal so you can notice consistent effects and become more adept at identifying and managing them. 

Self-regulation 

Self-regulation is often harder to achieve than self-awareness. It’s about managing the behaviors and thoughts that can feel like perfectly natural outcomes to certain emotions. Unfortunately, it’s these instinctive behaviors that can affect your sense of control, agility, and positivity during situations like negotiations and conflicts.   

There are several practices you can start implementing, including: 

  • Cognitive reappraisal: Cognitive reappraisal involves recognizing tough emotions and taking a mental step back from them. You can then examine how helpful or accurate the emotion is. Challenging inaccurate emotions can also give you a greater sense of agency over your feelings. 
  • Positive self-talk: One of the issues with emotionally difficult circumstances is it can be easy to talk yourself down. This can trigger further negative emotions, leading to a spiral that isn’t helpful in conflicts or negotiations. Start to identify positive attributes and feelings about yourself. Learning to focus on the positive in conflicts and negotiations can help you feel more engaged and effective. 

It can be challenging to develop both emotional self-awareness and self-regulation. If you find you’re struggling with these elements, spending time with a therapist can be a good way to better understand and manage your emotional states. 

Empathy and Social Awareness 

The people you’re engaging in negotiations or resolving conflicts with are humans with complex emotions. Just as you need to recognize your own feelings, emotional intelligence is about ensuring that you can respect and navigate others’ emotions too. Of course, people’s responses to emotions vary, so the main skills to develop when interacting with others are empathy and social awareness. 

Empathy and social awareness are closely tied concepts. Effectively, they describe the ability to consider, understand, and respect the emotional perspectives of others. In particular, appreciating the emotions of a diverse range of people with lived experiences different to your own. In essence, you’re putting yourself in their shoes to imagine what the situation is like for them, the feelings they’re confronted with, and the challenges this may create. In conflicts, this is key to experiencing others’ sides of the disagreement and finding a way to work together toward a conclusion. In negotiations, it shows you’ve considered partners’ needs, allowing you to work toward mutually beneficial outcomes.  

While empathy is often considered a natural trait, you can learn and develop it. Begin by simply reaching out and asking people how they’re feeling in different situations. This is particularly important with regard to social awareness, as the aim is to meaningfully interact with people from various backgrounds. These diverse interactions not only develop your emotional intelligence but can also give you a better understanding of the multitude of challenges people face.  

Training yourself in active listening skills is also key to being able to spot verbal and body-language signs of emotions. Importantly, be willing to open yourself up regularly to imagining yourself in different emotional and social positions and experiencing the feelings that come with these. 

Keeping All Parties Meaningfully Involved 

In conflicts and negotiations alike, it’s very easy as a leader to approach the process from an individual perspective. You may want to control the situation and direct it toward what you feel is the best outcome. Nevertheless, the emotionally intelligent approach is to remember that all of these situations involve multiple people. Whatever your goals are for the situation, it’s wise to help everyone feel as though they have a certain amount of agency in achieving its outcome. This makes the process more of a collaboration that suits everyone’s needs, rather than a battle. 

One solid area of focus is your own employees and colleagues. Securing team buy-in is vital because it gives everyone a sense of ownership of projects and the business, which tends to make them more emotionally and practically engaged in achieving positive outcomes. You can gain buy-in by being transparent about goals and objectives, which aids clarity and builds trust.  

Another tactic is to regularly recognize the contributions of your team, which helps them feel valued. These emotionally intelligent steps minimize the potential for conflicts. Your efforts also build trust, which can make navigating conflicts easier if they arise.  

When it comes to negotiating with external parties, keeping them involved tends to mean encouraging them to be vocal about their needs and interests. This not only shows them you’re considerate of their perspectives, but also gives you information you can make informed decisions about. When all parties commit to being meaningfully engaged and communicative, you can boost your emotional connections with one another and set a positive atmosphere. 

Conclusion 

Developing your emotional intelligence can empower you to be an effective leader throughout negotiations and conflicts. There are various traits to focus on here, from greater empathy to emotional self-regulation practices.   

Remember, though, that building your emotional intelligence isn’t just a way to become a more agile, competent, and relevant businessperson. Pursuing greater emotional sensitivity and perceptiveness is also an exercise in being a more well-rounded human, which may improve your personal life as well as your professional goals.

About the Author

Indiana LeeIndiana Lee is a writer, reader, and jigsaw puzzle enthusiast from the Pacific Northwest. An expert on business operations, leadership, marketing, and lifestyle. 

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