Fake anger won’t help you win negotiations

New Delhi: Using fake anger as a tactic in negotiations generally leaves parties of both parts feeling guilty, distrusted, and needing to make amends after-ward, according to a new study. Anger, the faux, feigned kind, has been a tool in negotiations for generations. The idea is that pretending to be angry can coerce the counterpart into conceding to your terms.

Those thinking about using such a tool, though, need to realise the real costs and risks involved. A new paper in the Journal of Behavioral Decision Making reports findings from five different studies of subjects in a negotiation agreement.

In short, “You’re likely going to pay a real price for the anger you express,” says senior author Bill Bottom, a professor of organisational behaviour at Olin Business School at Washington University in St. Louis. Bottom, who studies social and psychological aspects of negotiation, noticed how many previous studies and the business media reporting on this work have focused on “over generalising a very narrow set of findings.”

Similar accounts published in top-notch media outlets baldly made statements akin to, “it pays to be angry.” Not quite, Bottom says. “When you convince somebody to act like this, whether it’s with their boss or trying to buy a car or trying to sell a car, we’re doing a disservice if we’re making such grandiose claims,” Bottom says.

The anger strategy is where their research comes into play. Bottom used five different study approaches testing feigned anger in collaboration with lead author Rachel Campagna of the University of New Hampshire and co-author Alexandra Mislin of American University.

In that study, they paid some negotiators a bonus to express anger during their negotiations. They found that the anger that participants had initially faked eventually turned into genuine feelings of anger because of the way their counterparts reacted to them.

When it came time to implement the deal, these counterparts more often shirked or reneged outright. A few of the participants who feigned anger admitted to guilty feelings after-ward, leading the researchers to design these new studies to examine how often these guilty feelings really emerge.

The five new studies had more than 600 participants. In one study, Campagna and Mislin persuaded participants to come back the next day to implement the terms of the deal they had negotiated the previous day. While anger had dissipated by the next day, feelings of guilt over the way these people had treated their counterpart during the negotiation had frequently replaced it.

The findings convinced the researchers that using anger as a negotiating tactic is a lot more likely to increase guilt and distrust than it is to work in coercing concessions from the counterpart. They learned that guilt in particular triggered post-negotiation compensations, atonement and efforts at repairing the damage.

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