Past research has shown it’s disadvantageous to feel down or angry when you’re negotiating. But now Marwan Sinaceur and Larissa Tiedens argue that pretending you’re angry can be beneficial, especially when dealing with someone who has few options, because it gives the impression you are “dominant, strong and tough”.
First they asked 157 students to imagine they were a salesman for a technology company, and to read a fictional account of a negotiation between themselves and a buyer. Afterwards, the students who read a version in which the buyer got angry agreed to more concessions than the students who read a version in which he stayed calm, but only if they were told beforehand that their business was struggling at the moment.
In a second experiment, 142 students role-played in pairs, with half of them acting as a an employer and half as a job candidate. The students playing the role of ‘employer’ were given negotiation advice beforehand. Compared with the ‘employers’ advised to hide their emotions, the ‘employers’ who were told it was good to look angry (plus tips on feigning anger by frowning or banging the table) managed to negotiate better terms on salary, holiday, work location and equipment, but only if they were negotiating with a ‘candidate’ who thought there were no other jobs available.
“Whereas feeling angry has been shown to lead to bad negotiation outcomes, we showed that expressing anger can lead to good negotiation outcomes”, the researchers concluded. However, they advised that the strategy be treated with caution in light of earlier work showing that expressing an emotion can cause you to feel that emotion, and because you could put people off negotiating with you in the future. “As such, the expression of anger may be a strategy best suited for relatively short single-shot negotiations”, they said.
Sinaceur, M. & Tiedens, L.Z. (2006). Get mad and get more than even: When and why anger expression is effective in negotiations. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 42, 314-322.
Post written by Christian Jarrett (@psych_writer) for the BPS Research Digest.