The Canadian Bar Association
Family

Skilled negotiation requires emotional intelligence

Although many lawyers are trained to deal with facts and bottom lines, having an understanding of emotion is the key to successfully engaging the other side during negotiations, Toronto-area family lawyer Nicolle Kopping-Pavars writes in The Lawyer’s Daily.

As Kopping-Pavars, principal of NKP Law, explains, a recent study by neuroscientist Antonio Damasio that examined people with damage in the area of the brain where emotions are generated found that these individuals are not only unable to experience their feelings, but they are also incapable of making decisions.


“This led Damasio to conclude that at the point of decision-making, emotions are very important for choosing. In fact even with what we believe are logical decisions, logic isn’t always our reason for choosing, at the very point of deciding, the end result is usually based on emotion,” writes Kopping-Pavars.

According to negotiation coach Jim Camp, writes Kopping-Pavars, this finding has significant implications for lawyers who spend most of their time negotiating.

“Lawyers who believe they can build a case for their side using reason and logic alone are doomed to be poor negotiators as they don’t understand or appreciate that the real factors driving the other party to come to a decision, aren’t based on logic [alone], but rather on emotion,” she says.

“As much as you can hope that the other side will see your thinking as being logical and then assume that the other side won’t be able to argue with your thinking, the problem is, your whole negotiation has one major flaw, it is based on guesses and assumptions which lead to presumptions in the hope that the other party will see things your way.”

Rather than dictating the best course of action to an opponent, effective negotiators help them discover it for themselves, says Kopping-Pavars. 

“If you can get the other party to reveal their problems, their pain and unmet objectives, then you can build a vision for them of their problem, with you and your proposal as the solution. They won’t make their decision because it is logical. They’ll make their decision because you have helped them feel that it’s to their best advantage to do so,” she writes.

The message, she says, should be clear.

“Being an effective and skilled negotiator requires attunement to one’s own emotions as well as the ability to relate affirmatively to the emotions of others. In other words being emotionally intelligent.”

Indeed, explains Kopping-Pavars, while emotional intelligence is about understanding what others are feeling and then skillfully working with them, it is also about knowing and understanding our own internal states, resources and intuition at any given time and then being able to successfully manage our responses.

“Acquiring this insight leads to better decision-making and self-awareness which then results in fruitful and collaborative negotiations. Emotional intelligence means developing our own self-awareness and self-regulation mechanism. It is the ability to recognize our emotional triggers when we are faced with threats and stressful situations,” she writes.

As such, says Kopping-Pavars, lawyers can use a simple technique called the “STOP method” when they recognize that their own emotions may be impacting the negotiations. The technique requires you to:

S: Stop where you are, T: Take a breath, O: Observe what is happening inside of you — thoughts, feelings and physically, and; P: Proceed with a more measured response.

“Stopping allows us to see where we are here and now. It makes the ‘going’ clearer and places us back on task to ensure successful outcomes in negotiations,” she explains.

To Read More Nicolle Kopping-Pavars Posts Click Here
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