How many books, musicals or cheesy 1980s movies have been created to share the secrets of business success? How much time do you have?
The art of negotiation is an essential part of business success that commands innumerable theories and methods. Do you storm out of a negotiation, use your poker face and show no emotion, or make liberal use of heavy-handed threats? A recent Stanford Graduate School of Business study, published in the Journal of Applied Psychology, studied the effectiveness of anger versus threats in negotiation.
Previous negotiation literature favors the power of threatening to walk away from a negotiation, but it’s all in the timing. Walking away later was much more effective — and believable — than throwing in the towel early. There is much more time invested and there is usually more on the table once negotiations reach the later stages, say study authors Margaret Neale, John G. McCoy-Banc One Corporation Professor of Organizations and Dispute Resolution at the Stanford Graduate School of Business.
“Our results say that anger isn’t as effective as a simple threat in getting people to concede,” Neale said in a press release.
Researchers invited a focus group to participate in a virtual negotiation that presented either angry or neutral communications from the opposing party. The participants had to rate whether the statements implied a threat. Neale explained that anger can backfire, making counterparts reluctant to do business with you again. A cool, calm, collected, but substantiated threat was much more effective in getting counterparts to concede.
The key, researchers say is that threats make people appear more confident and in control of their emotions than anger does. Threatening negotiators were seen as more poised, and those who expressed frustration and anger were found to have questionable credibility because they may be making demands out of anger and in the heat of the moment. “The person who’s threatening appears more legitimate — it’s not someone just throwing a hissy fit,” Neale explained.
Follow Elise Rambaud Marrion on Twitter @emarrion_cmn.