Dr Rob Yeung is a chartered psychologist and coach at consulting firm Talentspace

Negotiation is a crucial skill. In the workplace, we must negotiate with suppliers, customers, investors, colleagues and even prospective employees or employers. Studies have found that demonstrating emotion can be beneficial in many interpersonal situations. However, an investigation by Massachusetts Institute of Technology academics Jared Curhan and Alex Pentland has shown that emotionality tends to be associated with worse outcomes during negotiations.

The researchers found that vocal emphasis – specifically, variations in pitch and volume – during the first five minutes of business negotiations was negatively correlated with a negotiator’s own outcomes. Vocal emphasis was also positively correlated with better outcomes for the negotiator’s opponent.

Negotiators who used more variation in tone and loudness tended to get worse deals

Negotiators who used more variation in the tone and loudness of their voices – for example, speaking in a whisper in one moment and then shouting later – tended to get worse deals than negotiators who were more measured. The finding is consistent with the view that the demonstration of emotion during negotiations can be a liability.

From a practical point of view, then, be careful not to show that you care too much about the outcome of your negotiation. This may be seen by your counterpart as a sign of weakness, allowing them to negotiate harder and exploit you. Even if getting to an agreement matters greatly to you, keep your emotions in check and your manner neutral during negotiations.

More information

ACCA’s annual virtual conference, ‘Accounting for the Future’, features a session with Dr Rob Yeung on navigating ethics in the workplace. Register today to watch live on 21-23 November or on-demand

Visit ACCA’s wellbeing hub for advice and resources to support your mental health at work