Negotiate Successfully by Feigning Emotional Distress

A friend who knows I have a very tough emotional skin, recently exchanged e-mails with me in which I played the role of being emotionally wounded, by what she wrote in her e-mail. What she wrote did not really cause emotional distress in me, but I responded as though it had to get a reaction from her.

Based on her responses, to me pretending to being ‘hurt’, I knew I had altered her emotional state of mind. In the end, I told her I was gathering information for this week’s negotiation lesson and wanted to use her as an example of how the strategy of feigning emotional distress can be used. Her last e-mail was, “kidddiiiinnnnggggg and you are pulling my leg. It just got so long!” She and her husband are dear friends and I knew to a great degree how she would most likely respond. Nevertheless, you can use the tactic of feigning emotional distress anytime you negotiate.

One reason this tactic is so effective is due to the fact that most people want to build and maintain rapport when they negotiate. To the degree that you break rapport, by feigning emotional distress, you can emotionally move the other person from one position to another. Thus, this tactic can be used as a powerful diversion. The following are examples of how you can use this tactic when negotiating via different mediums.

When you negotiate via e-mail:

The tactic of feigning emotional distress is easiest to use when you negotiate via e-mail. The main reason this is true is due to the fact that your negotiation partner cannot ‘pick up’ any other clues to your real demeanor. In addition, when using this medium to negotiate, there’s more room for misinterpretation, misperception or the projection of such. Here’s an example of how you can use this tactic via e-mail:

· Build rapport over a period of time and as long as the negotiation is progressing in the manner you wish, continue to proceed.

· Once you wish to feign emotional distress, alter your style of writing. If you’re prior e-mails were long and flowery, change your style to short and terse.

· Once the negotiation is back on the track you wish, reward your negotiation partner by going back to the writing style you had prior to feigning emotional distress.

When you negotiate via telephone:

When using this tactic over the phone, you need to observe the pace at which you and your negotiation partner speak. At the point you wish to utilize the emotional distress tactic, you can:

· Alter your pace of speaking (if you were previously speaking fast with a level of excitement in your voice, alter your voice to cast doubt/uncertainty and speak at a slower pace)

· If questioned about why your demeanor seems to have changed, indicate that everything is OK, but you’re not sure about ‘x’ (that which you’re discussing)

· Allow the other person to ‘pull out’ of you the fact that you don’t feel comfortable with the way in which the negotiation is headed. Let him suggest possible solutions to the perceived problem.

· Once you find yourself back on the negotiation track you wish to be on, go back to the cheerful person you were before you were emotionally distressed.

When you negotiate via face-to-face:

Face-to-face negotiations can be the most difficult arena in which to use this tactic. That’s the case, because your negotiation partner can pick up other cues from your body language. You have to communicate your emotional distress verbally and non-verbally and the two have to be synchronized with one another. When negotiating face-to-face, you can:

· Initially be in a jovial and very uplifting mood

· When you wish to alter the negotiation by acting emotionally distressed, don’t respond to a question that’s posed to you. Let silence hang in the air like a storm cloud waiting to release its rain.

· After feigning befuddlement, allow yourself to be drawn back into the negotiation by having your negotiation partner question what occurred to you. The best scenario would be one in which your negotiation partner asks what he can do to get the negotiation back on track. At that point, you’ll have additional insight into what else he may be willing to forgo in order to appease you. After you’ve ‘made your move’, assume the jovial manner by which you were communicating prior to feigning emotional distress.

Feigning emotional distress during a negotiation can and should be used with great care. While it can prove to be a very useful tactic, it can also take the negotiation in a direction from which you may not be able to recover. Determine how you’re going to use this tactic in the planning stage of the negotiation. Make sure you include in your plan what you’ll do if the tactic does not work in the manner you expect.

In essence, by using this tactic, you’re invoking psychological warfare. If this dynamic negotiation tactic is used in the right negotiation environment, by the right negotiator, at the right time, against the right negotiation opponent, you’ll find you have an enormously strong negotiation tool that can assist you in reaching more favorable negotiation outcomes … and everything will be right with the world.

The negotiation lessons are:

· While feigning emotional distress, be aware that a good negotiator can turn this dynamic tactic against you. Thus, you should be prepared to address the potential of such occurrences.

· If you are apprehensive about using this tactic, try it out with a friend to get over your fear or apprehension. After you’ve tried it on your friend, inquire as to how your friend felt and the thoughts that occurred in her mind. Then, thank her for helping you become a better negotiator.

· When using this tactic in a face-to-face negotiation, remember to match your body language with your words. Make sure your message from both aspects is synchronized; if not, you’ll diminish the tactic.