Written by Marijn Overvest | Reviewed by Sjoerd Goedhart | Fact Checked by Ruud Emonds | Our editorial policy

Emotions in Negotiations — Understanding Empathy in Procurement

Key take-aways
  • Regulating emotions and showing empathy enables impactful negotiations and strong business relationships.
  • It’s not wrong to show emotions in negotiations. But, only do so in a way that helps you achieve your goal.
  • Emotions are key in negotiations, but it’s crucial never to lose control.

Emotions in negotiations are a natural part of procurement and any business deal. Varying styles of communication personalities, and cultural traditions play a role in their impact. Other factors do too. 

Adapting to these factors puts you in a better position to negotiate well. Social skills and cultural sensitivity also help you create positive business relationships. 

After reading this article, you’ll have a firm understanding of emotions encountered in negotiations, emotional intelligence as a soft skill, and the nuances of expressing each emotion within the boundaries of a business deal.

I have created a free-to-download editable in-negotiation toolkit template. It’s a PowerPoint file that can help you create the best approach when negotiating with other parties. I even created a video where I’ll explain how you can use this template.

Emotions in Negotiations

Negotiating in business is never without challenges. You may encounter people with strong personalities.

They may disagree with your way of doing business. But it’s important to exercise empathy when dealing with different people.

Empathy and emotional intelligence are crucial. Every procurement professional should have them in negotiations and procurement processes.

High emotional intelligence, also called emotional quotient, lets you handle any situation well. This includes good and bad situations.

You may face aggression, passiveness, and other emotions. Showing empathy puts you in a strong position to make the best deals and build lasting relationships in business.

Emotional intelligence sets an example to internal teams, suppliers, and other stakeholders. It shows that leadership and flexibility can co-exist.

5 Ways To Prove Emotional Intelligence in Negotiations

Learning the nuances of emotions in negotiations is one of the first steps to becoming an expert negotiator. Below are the five best ways to show emotional intelligence, even in intense conversations.

1. Be Self-Aware

In negotiations, self-awareness means that as a procurement professional, you know your strengths and weaknesses. But how can you become more self-aware in negotiations?

A tip we can share here is to look closely at how you work under pressure. See what triggers your emotions and the factors that impact your biases. Then, learn to control and use them to your advantage.

2. Self-Regulate Emotions

Think of it as self-control. Self-regulation is a soft skill. It calls for a firm grasp of your emotions. Personal feelings or triggers could compromise negotiation outcomes if you lose control.

A procurement professional who can control their emotions in tough situations has an advantage. They can stay calm during deals, even when facing aggressive negotiation styles and supplier tactics.

3. Become Motivated

When you think about motivation in negotiations, what comes to mind? Is it part of being a go-getter in business deals?

Being motivated in procurement requires setting goals in both personal and professional settings.

Procurement professionals who set goals and become motivated can handle change and solve dilemmas. Thus, it’s important to show motivation in procurement, specifically negotiations. 

4. Show Empathy

Empathy is one of the most important qualities any professional across any sector can have. With empathy, you can read and understand the feelings and communication styles of others.

How we manage supplier relationships, engage stakeholders, and close deals all involve empathy.

In procurement, empathy is a positive quality that allows you to tap into not only the positive emotions of others but also the negative.

And regardless of how tense or difficult a supplier may be, showing empathy will most often give you the upper hand in a negotiation.

5. Learn Social Skills

Think of social skills as communication skills. In negotiations, you need social skills. They help you engage, talk, and handle conflict.

Social skills are the foundation for building relationships and closing deals. They help procurement professionals adapt to and handle different negotiation tactics.

You need social skills to build good supplier communications. They also help you earn the trust of stakeholders. In negotiations, buyers need social skills to make good choices and show their leadership.

Positive vs Negative Emotions in Negotiations

Both positive and negative emotions are key in negotiations. They can make or break a deal and affect the value created in business deals.

Here’s a breakdown of positive and negative emotions in negotiations.

Positive Emotions
Examples: happiness, composure, optimism, gratitude, confidence
Signals beneficial collaboration and healthy relationships.
Shows social skills and can prevent conflict escalation.
Leads to beneficial outcomes and lasting positive impacts on the organization.
Important to express to maintain healthy relationships and facilitate impactful conversations.
Indicates approachability and positive collaboration.
Negative Emotions
Examples: Anger, avoidance, stubbornness, arrogance, nonobjectivity
Can destroy business partnerships if mismanaged.
May result in aggressive responses from others.
Can inhibit the success of a deal and compromise performance.
Important to set boundaries and affirm business positions.
Not inherently bad, but requires responsible application to be effective.

My Experience in Managing Emotions in Negotiations

In this article, I will be sharing my personal experience in terms of managing emotions in negotiations: 

You should always try to be rational in preparing for negotiations and in negotiation processes. Getting emotionally charged to the point that you allow your ego to get in the way of a potential deal can end in you losing money and opportunities.  

The moment you let your emotions take over and you fail to be rational, you have a problem as a negotiator. That’s not to say that you should never show emotions in negotiations. It can be a positive thing to show your emotions, but just like negotiation tactics, it’s best to show your emotions in a way that helps you achieve a goal. 

So for example, when you notice that one of your suppliers is pushing you with tricks or fails to communicate appropriately, it reaches a point where showing emotions becomes crucial in setting boundaries in the negotiation. 

The same accounts for feeling tense or angry in a negotiation. You can show this to your advantage without losing your cool. In that way, showing emotions is not wrong, but it’s important to harness them wisely. Emotions can be a great resource in negotiation tactics. It sounds a bit weird, but it is true.

On the topic of emotions in negotiation tactics, this differs per region of the world. Let’s say you need to make a bargain about the price on the market in Morocco, then you should probably show more drive and passion early on in the negotiation. 

Whereas if you are working on buying an airplane from KLM and Boeing, then you know that there’s a relationship, so you would show this energy much later on in the negotiation, if necessary.

Marijn Overvest

CEO/Founder, Procurement Tactics


To sum up, showing emotions in negotiations is crucial to the outcome of business deals, partnerships, or any collaboration in procurement. 

Procurement professionals who understand the importance of self-awareness, self-regulation, and empathy among other things are the most equipped to handle any situation professionally.

It’s important to show gratitude and empathy, but it is equally important to set boundaries and stand your ground when necessary. Knowing which path to take depending on various factors will boost your position in any negotiation.

Thus, it’s important to grasp the effect of each emotion and learn how to harness emotions to your advantage, allowing you to create value and build positive relationships in procurement.

Frequentlyasked questions

How do emotions affect negotiations?

Emotions can make or break business deals. They can lead to beneficial outcomes in business deals. In contrast, emotions can also destroy opportunities and compromise business relationships.

What role does empathy play in negotiations?

Empathy is a highly positive quality that allows you to tap into not only the positive emotions of others but also the negative and will most often give you the upper hand in a negotiation.

Is it better to hide your emotions or express them in a negotiation?

It can be a positive thing to show your emotions in a way that helps you achieve a goal. Emotions help you understand people’s needs and expectations but are also necessary for setting boundaries and saying no to unfavorable terms.

About the author

My name is Marijn Overvest, I’m the founder of Procurement Tactics. I have a deep passion for procurement, and I’ve upskilled over 200 procurement teams from all over the world. When I’m not working, I love running and cycling.

Marijn Overvest Procurement Tactics