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In negotiations, a little anger may help

During negotiations, high-intensity anger elicits smaller concessions than moderate-intensity anger, a new study suggests.

“…negotiators should not just contemplate whether or not to express anger toward others, but also how to express anger toward others.”

Researchers found that the effects of anger expressions in negotiations depend on the intensity of the emotional display. Overall, moderate-intensity anger elicits larger concessions than no anger because moderate-intensity anger is perceived as tough.

High-intensity anger is perceived as inappropriate and is less effective than anger of moderate intensity. Further, expressions of anger lead to worse feelings about the negotiation relationship.

“Scholars have repeatedly asked if it is good or bad to express anger in negotiations,” the authors write. “The current research indicates that negotiators should not just contemplate whether or not to express anger toward others, but also how to express anger toward others.”

The researchers found consistent evidence that as anger intensity increased, initially the concessions people made also increased; but at a certain point, as anger intensity continued to increase, the concessions decreased.

Researchers showed the impact of anger expression intensity in two studies—the first with 226 undergraduate students from the United States (88 men and 138 women with an average age of 21), who participated in face-to-face negotiations involving a student project, and the second with 170 people (79 men, 90 women, and 1 unspecified with an average age of 37) who participated in a computer-mediated/online negotiation on Amazon’s Mechanical Turk website involving mobile phone sales.

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They used different ways to manipulate anger intensity by instructing negotiators to express anger, which generated natural variance in intensity levels, and by experimentally manipulating written anger statements that conveyed different intensity levels.

For example, the authors created statements such as “This negotiation is starting to make me the slightest bit upset,” “This negotiation makes me upset,” and “This negotiation makes me TOTALLY UPSET!” to convey low, medium, and high levels of intensity.

More research is needed to understand how the nature of emotional expressions influences individual and interpersonal outcomes, the authors say.

“It would be interesting to explore the influence of intensity with respect to emotions that are common in negotiations besides anger, such as happiness, disappointment, or pride, to develop a more thorough understanding of how intensity levels influence the social effects of emotions.”

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The findings appear in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. Additional coauthors are from Rice University and Northwestern University.

Source: Rice University

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