Research Problem / Issue
An international team of researchers recently addressed the question “Is communicating anger or threats more effective in eliciting concessions in negotiation?” They compared the respective effects of anger and threats on concession making. Their results suggest that getting angry in a negotiation may be unnecessary!
In negotiation, a goal is to elicit a concession. Negotiation is a value-claiming process. People use anger and threats as common strategies to claim value in negotiation.
Anger and threats are distinguishable. Anger is an emotion communication. Anger in the negotiation context signifies the threat of an impasse or some bad consequence. A threat is a conditional statement.
A threat usually has an “if . . . then” phrase that includes a negative consequence for noncompliance. In negotiation, a threat communicates an intent to punish if the other side does not concede. Prior studies have shown that emotional communication in negotiation can be strategic in that it can warn about an “impasse” or signifies a potential “deal breaker”.
This research sought to clarify whether the more emotional negotiation strategy, anger, is more effective than the colder strategy, issuing threats. This research study sought to learn more about what makes negotiation participants concede. Regarding negotiation, there is an important distinction between communicating threats and anger. Anger reflects a lack of poise. In contrast, nonemotional threats by a negotiator connote composure, confidence, and control. The researchers hypothesized that threats would be more effective than anger communication because of the greater poise conveyed by threats in comparison to anger.
Statements Used In Study
The researchers used prior research on anger in negotiation and constructed statements which the participants in this computer-mediated research study used. Anger: “I am very angry with your offer. This begins to seriously get on my nerves.” “This negotiation really makes me angry. I’m fed up with this. You need to make real efforts! It really starts to make me annoyed. All this is not serious.” Threats: “If you seriously don’t modify your offer, there will be consequences. It is up to you…”
This article discusses the results of three experiments in the study. The first part confirmed for the first time an idea that had long been suggested in negotiation research: anger elicits concessions in negotiations because it conveys a threat.
The second part of the study looked at two separate issues: comparing the effects of anger and threats on concession making in negotiation and the timing of a value-claiming strategy. This part also looked at the effect of perceived poise in the communicator. The results provide evidence that communicating threats is a more effective strategy in negotiation than communicating anger. Claiming value by communicating anger or threat later has better effect than earlier in a negotiation.
The final part of the research study measured perceptions of intensity and appropriateness, i.e. overly intense or inappropriate. The participants in this part had an option of ending the negotiation and accepting a valuable alternative, another offer from another. The participants in the third experiment made more concessions to a counterpart who communicated a threat compared to one who expressed anger.
Prior research has shown that anger elicits more concessions in negotiation than a soft strategy, such as communicating happiness. This research, the first to assess the impact of anger by comparing it to another tough, value-claiming strategy, threats, showed that anger may not only show that the negotiator is “tough”, but also a more problematic perception – that the negotiator lacks poise.
In theoretical implications, the research showed two things: (1) the emotional communication of anger is less effective in eliciting concessions as compared to the cooler expression of a threat; (2) more generally, an emotional strategy can be less effective than its cognitive equivalent in the negotiation context.
In applied implications, the research showed the importance of managing the relationship with the counterpart in negotiation. Anger can cause the recipient to in turn become angry. Threats are more effective than anger, this research showed, because along with the greater poise conveyed, there is an added benefit of being perceived as less coercive.
In summary, according to these researchers, “a strategy need not rely on communicating aggressive emotions to be effective; communicating a colder message along with the associated perception of a greater sense of confidence and control may be bludgeon enough.”
Take Home Point
In negotiation, the goal is to claim value. Much prior research has shown that emotional communication, anger, elicits more concessions when compared to a softer strategy. However, this research compared two “tough” strategies, anger and threats, and shows a surprising result: “Calmly issuing a threat matter of factly shows greater poise and confidence, deliberation, and appears to be more effective than getting angry.”
So, why not pick the “best” strategy? Anger may not be necessary. Getting angry could be counter-productive. This report shows that poise, confidence, and regulated emotions are perhaps the negotiator’s better tools. Being “cool” in a “matter of fact” way when trying to claim value may be the better way …….
Source: Sinaceur M, Van Kleef GA, Neale MA, Adam H, & Haag C (2011). Hot or cold: is communicating anger or threats more effective in negotiation? The Journal of applied psychology, 96 (5), 1018-32 PMID: 21688880
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