Whether you’re asking for a raise or persuading a Mercedes salesman to lower the price of your new car, negotiation is always, at its essence, an exercise in human interaction.

The Makings of a Good Negotiator

Good negotiators excel at reading other people. They are sensitive to others’ expressions and emotional states, and have a good sense of what other people are thinking. Successful negotiators are often portrayed in media as slick and duplicitous businessmen, or “wheeler-dealer” archetypes who strong arm those who are less clever than they are. In reality, negotiation isn’t about bullying others to get what you want. Rather, the art of negotiation is really about finding a mutually-beneficial solution, one from which all parties walk away feeling like they won.

Negotiation Toolbox: Empathy

Understanding what motivates your negotiating partner is essential because knowing this information allows you to adapt your behavior and address what your counterpart desires in the bargain. From requesting a promotion at work to arranging a ceasefire amid a violent war, the basic element is trust and understanding.  Savvy negotiating requires emotional intelligence, the ability to be personable–the ability to relate well to other people. In other words, empathy is an essential negotiation tool.  

Emotional Intelligence Makes It Easier to Find Solutions

Thanks to the advent of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), neuroscientists now recognize that money–more than sex, more than food–has a uniquely specific and dynamic effect on the human brain. And fMRI scans exemplify visual patterns which reflect this singular cognitive state. Given that money excites brain activity in that way, negotiators who are tuned in to the emotional state of their counterparts will be especially perceptive when it comes to spotting less obvious opportunities for agreement.