Keep an even keel

Emotions can impact your decisions

Danny Koker is the star of the History channel show “Counting Cars.”

Do you find that your emotions sometimes rule and influence your decision in a negotiation? If your answer is yes, you are not alone. Just tune your television to the History channel and watch the professionals at “Counting Cars,” “Pawn Stars” and “American Pickers” struggle to control their emotions when negotiating.

Danny Koker is the star of the History channel show “Counting Cars.”
Danny Koker is the star of the History channel show “Counting Cars.”

Danny Koker, the star of “Counting Cars,” lets his emotions rule when considering buying a car or motorcycle to customize and flip. There are times he has been known to chase down a prospective seller on the street and ask to see his car or motorcycle. His passion for certain types of cars is a weakness and leaves him vulnerable to potentially overpaying the seller in order to close the deal. By showing his hand early, he puts himself at a disadvantage. In some cases, it takes Koker’s business manager stating, “We are in business to make money,” and counseling him for Koker to adjust his expectations or find another potential deal, his BATNA (best alternative to a negotiated agreement).

Here are a number of strategies to be considered that would neutralize the emotional impact and help you manage the emotional component in a negotiation.

  • Remain emotionally neutral when possible.
  • Determine the “line in the sand” prior to the negotiation, your WATNA (worst alternative to a negotiated agreement).
  • Consulting with an independent expert can assist in breaking a deadlock.
  • When you encounter an impasse, take a break or move on to another topic.
  • Develop other options in advance, your BATNAs.

The History channel provides us with some other examples:

When watching “Pawn Stars,” there are times when Rick Harrison, the owner of the pawn shop, states, “If that is an original, it could be worth a great deal of money.” This type of response exposes Rick’s hand and influences the seller’s view of the item’s value. The seller now is emotionally charged, believing he or she has hit the jackpot. When Rick invites in an expert to assign a value to the item, the seller hears the retail value and perceives that is the price the buyer will pay. Now, the challenge for Rick is to convince the seller he or she needs to adjust his or her expectations. Rick will explain why his offer is reasonable based on what he can resell the item for in his shop.

Mike Wolfe of “American Pickers” has encountered times when he or his partner, Frank Fritz, discover a hidden gem in someone’s barn, trailer or garage and develop an emotional attachment to the item. More than once, they have overpaid for an antique Lionel train set or a 1930s Ford or Plymouth car. Their decision-making process was influenced by their emotions and they crossed the line in the sand, their WATNA. The level of emotional attachment also influences the seller’s perception of an item’s value.

Because of this, the seller sets a value above the market price. In fact, many times the price is at the retail value. Now, Mike or Frank is challenged to convince the seller his or her perception of the value is too high. In some cases, they determine that the emotional connection is too strong and move on to another item. Once they “break the ice” and get the seller to relinquish an item that does not have an emotional value, they revisit the earlier item, hoping that they can convince the seller to adjust the original price. As with the “Pawn Stars,” Mike and Frank call upon experts to ascertain a true value and minimize the influence of their personal feelings. In some instances, the expert’s opinion not only establishes a realistic price range, but also aids in breaking the seller’s emotional connection.

These are three examples of how emotion can interfere with the successful conclusion of a negotiation. Being aware of your emotions and developing strategies to minimize their impact will provide you with a level of comfort in an emotionally charged situation.

-Cary Silverstein, MBA, is a writer, speaker and community volunteer who splits his time between Scottsdale, Arizona and Fox Point. He is the co-author of the book “Overcoming Your NegotiaPhobia,” and can be reached at (414) 403-2942.

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He was a senior professor at DeVry's Keller Graduate School in Wisconsin. Cary has published articles in periodicals and on the Internet. He recently published first book with Dr. Larry Waldman, "Overcoming Your NegotiaPhobia". Cary holds MBAs from L I U’s Arthur T. Roth School of Business. Cary has a BA from CUNY, Queens College. He has certificates in Negotiation from Harvard’s PON and in Labor and Employment Law from Marquette University.

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