Summary of "Beyond Reason: Using Emotions as You Negotiate"

Summary of

Beyond Reason: Using Emotions as You Negotiate

By Roger Fisher and Hollie Hendrikson

Summary written by Hollie Hendrikson, Conflict Research Consortium

Citation: Fisher, Roger and Daniel Shapiro. Beyond Reason: Using Emotions as You Negotiate. New York, NY: Viking Penguin, 2005.


Beyond Reason is an analysis of the role emotion plays during the negotiation process. Roger Fisher and Daniel Shapiro discuss new strategies for understanding negative emotions and harvesting positive emotions in both formal and informal negotiations. To clarify this role, Beyond Reason provides examples from hypothetical and real world situations.

The Big Picture

Fisher and Shapiro define emotion as, "An experience to matters of personal significance; typically experienced in association with a distinct type of physical feeling, thought, physiology, and action tendency" (209). Negative emotions tend to create an obstacle to negotiations, while positive emotions can act as an asset to negotiations. Fisher and Shapiro suggest that emotions should not be suppressed or ignored. Instead, they advise individuals to address the five Core Concerns rather than the emotion itself.

Core Concerns

These core concerns convey "human wants that are important to almost everyone in virtually every negotiation" (15). By addressing the five core concerns (appreciation, affiliation, autonomy, status, and role) negotiators can be successful and effective in dealing with conflict.

  1. Appreciation: The desire to feel understood and honestly valued is universal. Cooperation increases when there is a mutual feeling of appreciation. Fisher and Shapiro describe three main obstacles to achieving mutual appreciation: failing to understand another point of view, criticizing the merit of another, and failing to properly communicate your own merit. To overcome these obstacles, an individual must: first, listen to words and recognize the emotional response of the other person; second, acknowledge the reasoning and beliefs behind their thoughts and feelings; third, disregard age, wealth, or authority; finally, shape your message so others correctly understand. By using these tools, increasing appreciation and developing positive emotions will be easier to achieve.
  2. Building Affiliation: Affiliation describes the sense of connectedness with another group or person. Often we fail to recognize the commonality between groups. Building affiliation bridges the gap between groups and increases the ability to productively work together. Fisher and Shapiro distinguish between structural affiliation, which is the recognition of a common group membership, and personal connection. The purpose recognizing affiliation is to humanize the other, but not make new friends. Advice from the authors: avoid agreements based solely on emotions (these are prone to manipulation).
  3. Respect Autonomy: During negotiations, maintaining autonomy, or the "freedom to affect or make decisions without the imposition of other" is essential (211). However, an individual needs to be careful not to impinge or interfere with the autonomy of another. The author's suggests using the Inform, Consent, and Negotiation system (I-C-N). A joint brainstorming session is an example of the inform step; it provides recommendations and options for mutual benefit. Consulting other colleagues before deciding, and negotiating for the best alternatives are step to ensure equality in representation. These steps help ensure the autonomy of each participating party.
  4. Acknowledge Status: "Status refers to our standing in comparison to the standing of others" (95). Positive emotions can be created when status increases self-esteem or the influence over others. Negative emotions arise out of the competition for status. Acknowledging another's status before acknowledging your own, can harbor positive emotions. This acknowledgement can be in a particular status, or the standing within a specific field, if their substantive expertise can be a benefit to the negotiation process. It is important to recognize the limits of status: the opinions of a person with a higher status are not automatically correct.
  5. Choose a fulfilling role: The main goal is to choose a role that fulfills your needs and standards of appreciation, affiliation, autonomy, and status. The first step to choosing a role is to become aware of your conventional role and shape or expand that role to make it fulfilling. Three important qualities of a fulfilling role are: a clear purpose, which provides an overarching framework to behavior; personally meaningful, incorporates skills, interests, values, and beliefs into a task; not a pretense, the role you are in is not who you pretend to be, but should define who you really are. Remember that not all roles are permanent. Adopting temporary roles are helpful in fostering collaborations.

Addressing Strong Negative Emotions

When strong emotions arise, your attention narrows and you are unable to think clearly. Fisher and Shapiro offer prescriptive advise to resolve the tunnel vision created by negative emotions.

Take Your Emotional Temperature: Observe differences in their behavior and your own. When you feel things are heating up, find ways to soothe the situation (i.e. vocally appreciate their concerns, take a break, or change the location of negotiations). Having a strategy to deal with negative emotions before entering into a negotiation is strongly advised.

Diagnose Triggers: Identify the purpose of the expression of strong negative emotions, and evaluate the core concern that needs to be addressed.

Common purposes of strong emotion:

  • To get emotions off your chest
  • To educate another about the impact of their behavior on you
  • To influence the other person
  • To improve the relationship (clarification of intentions)

Be Prepared

Establish a routine for process, substance, and emotion.

  • Process: before the negotiation, evaluate the intended purpose of the meeting and the sequence of events to produce a product that meets your purpose.
  • Substance: understand the arguments of both sides. This will increase your ability to respond and react with reason rather than with emotion.
  • Emotion: take the emotional temperature of yourself and your associates throughout the negotiation process.

Fisher and Shapiro suggest to review after each session and articulate which strategies worked well, and which strategies did not work. In order to be more objective of the process, get the perspective and opinion of other colleagues. The key is to learn from your experiences.


By addressing and using the five core concerns to manage emotional response, relationships at home and at work can be greatly improved. Beyond Reason transforms negotiation from an uncomfortable, unproductive process, into an efficacious interaction of problem solving.