Negotiate Using Emotion

If you have only an inkling of what I’m about, you will know I’m big on emotion. It’s driven my choices in life. Emotion is the key motivator to what we do, say and what we ultimately differentiates us as human beings. It’s undeniable that other factors play a part (i.e. financial, convenience) when we make decisions, but it’s our emotions that principally determine what we decide and act upon.

Chris Voss is a former top FBI hostage negotiator who now teaches business negotiation at Harvard University. He understands the intricacies of emotion. How to use it to get the result he wants. Businesses, Chris says, still don’t get it. They enter into negotiations trying to pretend emotion doesn’t exist. That it’s about facts and figures. That business decisions are rational.

Voss strips it back to the core when he says businesses aren’t listening. They focus solely on their own argument. When they’re not talking about it, they’re thinking about it. They’re not hearing the bigger picture. They’re not listening to what people want. I agree with Voss. Nothing in life is completely rational. We all make decisions based on what we care about. If we listen closely, we can understand the emotional resonance in an argument. Then we can better understand if we can deliver what is wanted.

Voss’ perspective goes beyond just the boardroom. It’s also reflective of how brands need to engage with their customers. They need to listen to what consumers want. How they feel about their product. Talk with them, not at them. Go beyond a transaction. Enter a relationship.

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Kevin Roberts

Kevin Roberts is founder of Red Rose Consulting; business leader and educator; author and speaker; adviser on marketing, creative thinking and leadership.


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