5 Facts About Stress & Emotions in Negotiating

Emotions lead to wins and losses!

Last week while working in Philadelphia, I was able to take a day and make a trip to Gettysburg, PA and the Gettysburg National Military Park. Whether or not you are a history buff, I highly recommend it. The park incorporates nearly 6,000 acres, with 26 miles of park roads and over 1,400 monuments, markers, and memorials. It is a solemn reminder of the cost of war, and the visit was a moving experience.

While there I realized how poor my knowledge of American history is in general— and Civil War history in particular—so I decided to do some research when I got home. Earlier this week I came across a video about the battle for Gettysburg that took place on July 1st through July 3rd, 1863. Most historians agree that it was the turning point of the war, and made the Union victory two years later a near certainty.

In the video, Captain Steven Knott, an instructor at the US Army War College, talked about one of the reasons that the Confederate army failed to win the Gettysburg battle—it was a series of personal disputes between three generals in the Confederate cavalry. [1] In other words, their emotions got the better of them, and the impact was devastating.

Gettysburg & Negotiating Successfully

So, what does a Civil War battle at Gettysburg have to do with negotiating successfully? In both cases you might expect the parties to set aside their “petty” differences and do what’s best for their organization. But that’s not what people do. We all bring our emotions everywhere we go including the battlefield and the negotiating table. (And no, they aren’t the same thing.)

In our MAP Negotiation Workshop, we explore personalities. What surprises many workshop participants is how much people shift under stress—something that’s essential to realize.


  1. Stress triggers emotions!
  2. For some people negotiating on its own is stressful.
  3. You don’t know what other pressures the other party is under that might be having an effect on the negotiation.
  4. You might shift personality styles too! Are you aware of how stress changes you in the negotiating process?
  5. When there are multiple parties involved in the negotiation they each have their own motivations AND reactions to stress.

Planning Is Key!

At MAP Negotiation we take planning seriously—it’s an essential part of negotiating successfully. And as a part of that planning process it’s important to anticipate what might take place during a negotiation that could be upsetting to any of the parties involved. How can you prepare in advance to triggers and mitigate any negative impact on the negotiation if it occurs?

To be truly prepared for a negotiation there are many factors to consider including the ones we’ve already touched on. That takes time, but it’s well worth it. In fact, we make it easy for our participants by providing our Negotiation MAP planning form that includes all the critical aspects of a negotiation to consider.

By planning properly and paying careful attention to your own emotional state and that of the people you’re negotiating with, you can avoid losing the battle and the war—and avoid making deals you’ll regret later.

When have your emotions gotten in the way of your negotiation success?

[1] The video is lengthy, but you can find the juicy stuff between 23:57 and 30:30 if you want to save time.

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Bradley Humbles

Bradley has been studying negotiation, successfully using negotiation skills, and facilitating negotiation workshops for more than 20 years. As a small business owner, Bradley understands what it takes to succeed in a competitive marketplace.

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