You Can’t Ignore the “Feelings” Person in the Negotiation Room

Posted By on November 3rd

You can’t ignore the “Feelings” person in the negotiation room.

Photography by visualpanic

Bill Eddy, the President of High Conflict Institute and author of numerous books, describes potential parties to a negotiation as a “math” person and as a “feelings” person. He warns that the differences in “math” people and “feelings” people can unnecessarily block a settlement.

Eddy says that “Math” people believe they have everything figured out on their own. “Feelings” people, however, don’t have a clear idea of what they want. They are still in shock about how they feel they’ve been wronged, and/or they are fearful about their future.

I have found in my negotiations that the “Feelings” person is the most challenging component in achieving a settlement. Most attorneys tend to be “Math” people; they have analyzed all of the evidence and understand the benefits and risks of going to court. They know a certain amount of discussion is necessary for the negotiating parties to gradually move from their positions, but in the attorney’s world filled with trials, hearings, mediations, meetings, and appointments, only a certain amount of time can be allotted to work with the “Feelings” person.

It is also not uncommon for “Math” persons and “Feeling” persons to develop business and personal relationships together. They have a separate set of skills, and when the relationship works well, they are able to achieve more together than individually. When the relationship is not working well, however, all communication breaks down, and they both see the other person as unreasonable.

The “Feelings” person is challenging because all of the non-“Feelings” people need to slow down and recognize what the “Feelings” person needs in order to reach a settlement. This is difficult for “Math” people to do; however, there are some strategies that work.

  1. Take the necessary time to work with the “Feelings” person to make sure they understand the true realities of their situation and the realistic outcomes. Don’t be unnecessarily challenging or confrontational.
  2. Be interested in the “Feelings” person’s viewpoint, and allow for full discussion before tackling the details. Try to approach the facts using stories and people as examples.
  3. Keep summarizing to make sure they are comfortable and areas of agreement are being achieved.
  4. Don’t enable the “Feelings” person. All personality styles are valid and should be handled respectfully. Work with the “Feelings” person to move them towards understanding, not to support their belief that the other person is unreasonable.

About the author

Keith Grossman helps individuals and businesses negotiate and manage conflict more comfortably. Keith is a Collaborative Attorney, a Family and Circuit Civil mediator certified by the Supreme Court of Florida, an Arbitrator qualified by the Florida Supreme Court, and an educator. Keith frequently lectures and facilitates training programs, works with individuals one-on-one, and writes articles on conflict management and negotiation topics. His e-workbooks, “What Is A Peace Chest?” and “How Do You Build A Peace Chest?“ are now available on Kindle.


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