One school of thought among expert negotiators is that emotion is the enemy in any negotiation.

Stuart Diamond, author of Getting More, with a CV including Wharton, Harvard, Columbia, USC, Berkeley, the World Bank, Google, and Microsoft, states plainly, “Emotion is the enemy of effective negotiations and of effective negotiators.”

That opinion ignores findings in current psychology, which have confirmed that decision making is inherently emotional.

Antonio Damasio, for one, has reported cases in which, because of a brain tumor or injury, a person was relatively devoid of emotion. One of the interesting side effects was that these emotionless people had enormous difficulties making decisions.

Our emotions assign value to external phenomena; that is what allows us to make choices.

Negotiation is a process through which the participants make a series of decisions.

Each of these decisions has an emotional component.

If you sense that you are sitting across the table from someone who is devoid of emotion, s/he may be a sociopath. If so, negotiation may be very frustrating, if not dangerous.

When we demonize emotions, repress them, attempt to extricate them from the negotiation process, we only impede the flow of energy that needs to flow to allow for dispute resolution.

Emotions must be addressed.

A person who is (acts?) “emotional” demands to be heard; if you deny them (who knows how many other people have refused to listen?), it will be counter-productive to dispute resolution.

Besides, expression of emotions is valuable information.

Listen to the emotions.


Stuart Diamond’s approach deserves scrutiny. On one hand, he demonizes emotions, generally; on the other, he recommends making “emotional payments” to other negotiators.

Jonathan Haidt, professor of psychology at the University of Virginia, and author of several books, including The Happiness Hypothesis, describes the mind as like an elephant and a rider.

The elephant represents the emotional parts of the brain, and the rider represents the analytical.

If the elephant really wants something, the rider is helpless.

If the elephant is ambivalent, the rider has more control.

If the rider is skilled, he has spent years training his elephant and working with him.

Trying to extricate emotions from negotiations is like trying to ignore the elephant in the room.