Psychological Perspectives


January 17, 2019

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Ken Silvestro, PhD. 677-7282 •

Negotiating means that two or more people meet in open discussion and eventually settle on agreeable terms for a particular arrangement. Negotiations are not new. Throughout history, people have always negotiated for properties, objects, animals, laws and principles and even other people. Historic negotiations, however, weren't always civil. Today, that occurs less frequently, but in most instances, when civil negotiations are not present, it is not as obvious as in the past. Negotiations are necessary for business, government and personal life.

Negotiations, like all human experiences and expressions, are psychological, originating from the human psyche (the unconscious or hidden psychology and consciousness or awareness). No one can function without the psyche being involved. Even physical movements require thoughts to move body parts. It shouldn't be a surprise, then, to hear that psychology is necessary for negotiations.

When two or more people are negotiating, their psychologies differ in many ways: interests, beliefs, desires, cultural values, experiences, parental influences and more. These factors always influence negotiations but the most important influences are the egos (conscious beliefs and values) and shadows (unconscious dark sides of personalities) of the negotiators. With so many psychological factors meeting each other, it is a wonder that negotiations can succeed.


The ego and shadow were introduced in previous articles. For this article, it is especially important to remember that the ego can be selfish, territorial, hold personal values above other people and be rigid. The shadow can be aggressive, violent, manipulative, deceitful and tyrannical. Clearly, these qualities are not helpful when negotiations are underway. So, how can people ever succeed in negotiating a situation or arranging beneficial agreements?

First, negotiators must psychologically develop to overcome their negative qualities, to form more civil egos and reduce the power of their shadows.

Second, even with less than needed psychological development, negotiators must be able to keep their egos and shadows in-check during negotiations.

Third, empathy (understanding and feeling another person's situation as if it were one's own) must become the guiding factor during negotiations.

Finally, negotiators must be able to combine all of the above during negotiations.

This sounds like a tall order, but it's not. People employed in positions that require negotiations manage it all the time. Parents with adolescents and older children also manage it. So, it is important to keep in mind that negotiating requires two or more people-a parent and child or one employee meeting another employee, and that both individuals must meet each other in open, respectful and meaningful ways for any chance of successful negotiation to occur.


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