Want to Get to a Yes? Considering the Role Emotions Can Play May Help

Getting people to say yes by tapping into their emotions can be a useful tactic. With the help of a few tips, it may also not be so hard to do.
August 07, 2017

We may think that crafting a solid, logical argument is enough to get people to a yes. But logic alone may not be enough. Emotions may get in the way. So, it can pay to first understand the role that emotions play in our decision-making. It may also help to have some strategies for effectively dealing with those emotions so that we can get people to a yes.

I recently interviewed emotions expert Joshua Freedman, who is the CEO of Six Seconds, a nonprofit dedicated to emotional intelligence. (Full disclosure: Freedman is my publisher.) Freedman is the author of six books on emotional intelligence, including Inside Change: Transforming Your Organization With Emotional Intelligence. He has quite a bit to say on how one can make emotional intelligence part of their company MO.

Joshua Freedman, CEO, Six Seconds

What role do emotions play when you're trying to get a person to a yes?

Pretty much everything. While many of us see ourselves as highly rational, and we imagine that our "yes" will come from a carefully reasoned argument, that's not how the brain works. As neuroscientists like Antonio Damasio have demonstrated, our logic helps us make a list, but it's emotion that says, "this is actually important."

Emotion gives weight and power to our thoughts, emotion tells us what's true and what's valuable. So when we're negotiating, if the other party doesn't feel the fairness, or doesn't feel the value, you're not getting that "yes."

So how can one become effective with the emotional side?

It's astoundingly simple to start because emotions are an innate part of us. We might not notice it, but emotions are there; emotions are part of the body's basic regulatory system. Emotions are chemicals that affect every living cell, and they're woven into the fabric of every social interaction. 

People are more likely to resist change when they feel overwhelmed, out of control or don't feel the value of the change.

—Joshua Freedman, CEO, Six Seconds

The first step is simply noticing. By becoming more curious about our own and others' emotions, we can begin to collect data. The next step is to begin experimenting. Most of us have many opportunities each day to test out different ways of communicating, responding, thinking, feeling... and we get continuous feedback from others' faces, words and actions.

I recommend a three-step process:

1. Tune in. Notice feelings [and] name them. Notice how they're pushing you to react.

2. Pause to reflect and assess. Is that the way you want to react?

3. Step forward on purpose. Remember your long-term goal, connect compassionately with others and take action.

Then repeat the process. This is the emotional intelligence Six Seconds Model that my organization has developed.

When trying to get people to buy in on change, doubt may be paralyzing. What are some tactics one can adopt to enroll people in the change?

People are more likely to resist change when they feel overwhelmed, out of control or don't feel the value of the change. 

Depending on the reason for resistance, the solution may be surprisingly easy. I've seen many people, including senior leaders in large enterprise, fail to address the emotions of resistance because they were scared of people's feelings. Feelings are 100 percent natural, and especially in complex change situations, you should only be really worried if no one on your team is expressing emotions. That's because apathy is much harder to resolve.

In change situations, it's a good bet that "feeling overwhelmed" is a major contributor to resistance. Sometimes just acknowledging feelings is enough. To properly acknowledge feelings, don't try to fix the person or cover their feelings with false cheer. Just listen.

To be even more effective, express some of your own similar feelings, without taking away the spotlight and making it about you.

If feeling out of control is part of the cause for the resistance, it may help to identify multiple options. Start with the orientation that there are always multiple choices, and no one is going to try to make another comply. Because if you're pushing and trying to take away people's autonomy, you're creating more struggle. The #1 rule of emotional intelligence: When people feel pushed, they resist.

Finally, if someone doesn't feel the value of the change, it could be that the change has insufficient value. Often, a "good change" is blocked because the change wasn't linked to purpose. Linking change to purpose means finding out what's important to the people involved, the team or the organization, and ensuring that the change gets closer to that purpose. If the change isn't going to help the individuals, team or entity fulfill their purpose, it may be a change that should be resisted.

Learn more ways to get business done.

Photo: Getty Images; courtesy of Joshua Freedman