Feeling is a Form of Thinking

Emotions can make you a better negotiator… 

Normally when you think of making decisions, negotiating or dealing with others you do so on the assumption that you are a rational person, and that the other person is a rational person. In short, logic makes you think, and thinking makes you act.

Think of how you negotiate. In the book, Getting to Yes, Fisher and Ury, outline four key steps to take when negotiating:

  1. Separate the person – the emotion –  from the problem;
  2. Don’t get wrapped up in the other side’s position (what they’re asking for) but instead focus on their interests (why they’re asking for it) so that you can find what they really want;
  3. Work cooperatively to generate win-win options; and,
  4. Establish mutually agreed-upon standards for evaluating those possible solutions.

There is only one problem with this – the assumption that people are rational is flawed. People are actually irrational in how they think, decide and act. Let me share with you an example of how this happens.

Playing the Ultimatum Game

This game has been run many times with students. Students are split into pairs – a “proposer” and an “accepter”. The proposer is given $10 and then has to offer the accepter a round number of dollars. If the accepter agrees he or she receives what’s been offered and the proposer gets the rest. If the accepter refuses the offer, though, they both get nothing.  What would do you think they did? If you were the proposer, what would you do?

Whether they “win” and keep the money or “lose” and have to give it back is irrelevant. What’s important is the offer they make. Almost without exception, whatever selection anyone makes, they find themselves in a minority. No matter what split of the $10 is used ($6/$4, $5/$5, $7/$3, $8/$2, etc.), no split is chosen far more than any other.

When the pairs were asked to explain how they made a decision their reasoning, in every case, they described it as rational. However, they were wrong for two reasons:

  1. For proposers: If everyone was rational they would all make the same offer, yet they made different offers. The reasons they all made different offers is that they assumed the other person would reason like them.
  2. For accepters: Accepters who turned down $1, or more, made an emotional choice. If you are rational since when is getting $0 better than getting $1?

So do you honestly think you are a rational person? You’re not. Like everyone else, you and I are all irrational, all emotional.

So what is the assumption that should underpin how we decide and negotiate?

Logic makes people think, but emotions make people act.

So when making decisions or negotiating use both logic and emotion – remember, a feeling is a form of thinking.

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