Let’s face it.  During some negotiations, you may get angry at the other sideyou’re your blood pressure may go up.  The problem with that blood pressure is that it is not only bad for your heart, but it is also bad for your ability to negotiate effectively.  According to a Clemson University researcher, your ability to recognize emotional cues in is directly linked to your blood pressure.

The study by Clemson University professor James A. McCubbin reveals that people with higher blood pressure are less able to recognize angry, fearful, sad and happy faces and text passages.

“It’s like living in a world of email without smiley faces,” McCubbin said. “We put smiley faces in emails to show when we are just kidding. Otherwise some people may misinterpret our humor and get angry.”

Negotiations are complex situations that involve all types of emotions and issues.  It is critical that the negotiators are able to understand the emotional cues that may reveal the other side’s negotiating position.  In complex social situations like work settings, people rely on facial expressions and verbal emotional cues to interact with others.

“You may distrust others because you cannot read emotional meaning in their face or their verbal communications,” said McCubbin.  “You may even take more risks because you cannot fully appraise threats in the environment.”

McCubbin refers to this phenomenon as “Emotional Dampening.”  In other words, a person has a decreased ability to understand the emotional and social cues of other people.

This research confirms anecdotal research that people do not negotiate as effectively when they are angry.  They may make rash decisions and, as this study proves, they may misinterpret critical emotional cues which can change the dynamic of the negotiation.

Take for example, the joint session in mediation.  Many times, the parties come into the joint session angry already.  They are not ready to listen to the other side.  Then they hear something that they don’t want to hear and they become even angrier.  Now everything the other person seems hostile.  Indeed, there is a saying that we judge other people by their actions, and ourselves by our intentions.  Because of the impaired emotional vision, we interpret the other person’s actions negatively.  Many times in mediation, this anger-impairment cycle can lead to disastrous consequences.

So if you feel yourself getting hot under the collar because of a negotiation, consider using tactics to calm yourself down first before continuing the negotiations.


McCubbin’s study, published in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine, was supported by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute and the National Institute on Aging, both parts of the National Institutes of Health.

The journal article was co-authored by Marcellus M. Merritt of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee psychology department; John J. Sollers III if the psychological medicine department at the University of Auckland; Dr. Michele K. Evans of the Laboratory of Immunology, National Institute on Aging; Alan B. Zonderman, Laboratory of Behavioral Neuroscience, National Institute on Aging; Dr. Richard D. Lane of the psychiatry department, University of Arizona; and Julian F. Thayer of the Ohio State University psychology department.

By Steven G. Mehta