Embrace the Emotions: Five Core Concerns (Part 1 of 2)

Emotions are experiences. When someone says or does something that is personally significant to you, your emotions respond and you typically experience a physical feeling, thought, physiological change, and need to act. You literally feel emotions; you don’t just think them. Emotions can be positive or negative. Positive emotions are uplifting whereas negative emotions are distressing.

Let’s consider how emotions can be both obstacles and assets. Emotions become obstacles when they:

  • Divert attention from substantive matters
  • Damage a relationship
  • Are used to exploit you

Conversely, emotions become assets when:

  • They can make it easier to reach agreements
  • Enhance a relationship

“We cannot stop having emotions any more than we can stop having thoughts. The challenge is learning to stimulate helpful emotions in those with whom we negotiate – and in ourselves.” ~ Roger Fisher

The goal is to stimulate positive emotions in yourself and in others. The better we get at fostering positive emotions, the more successful our relationships and the more likely outcomes and agreements will meet the needs of everyone involved. 

Easier said than done. Emotions are complex. There are dozens of possible emotions we might feel at any given time. Therefore, rather than trying to identify and manage the complexity of any given emotion, Roger Fisher and Daniel Shapiro, the authors of Beyond Reason: Using Emotions as You Negotiate have boiled down the complex sea of emotions to five core concerns that matter to each and every one of us. It is much more manageable to deal effectively with five core concerns than hundreds of emotions. 

Generally speaking, core concerns are human wants of personal significance, usually arising within a relationship. They are core because they touch upon how we want or expect to be treated. They are: Appreciation, Affiliation, Autonomy, Status, and Role. When we consider and address the five core concerns, we are shifting from our natural tendency to focus on facts and figures, to look beyond the rational component and explore the emotional component.  

Core ConcernThe concern is ignored when…The concern is met when…
Appreciation Your thoughts, feelings, or actions are devalued.  Your thoughts, feelings, and actions are acknowledged as having merit.
AffiliationYou are treated as adversary and kept at a distance.You are treated as a colleague.
AutonomyYour freedom to make decisions is impinged upon.Others respect your freedom to decide important matters.
StatusYour relative standing is treated as inferior to that of others.Your standing where deserved is given full recognition.
RoleYour current role and its activities are not personally fulfilling.You so define your role and its activities that you find them fulfilling.

Beyond Reason, by Roger Fisher and Daniel Shapiro, page 17, Table 3

Now pause…think of a situation, conflict or negotiation* you recently experienced. As you read about each of the core concerns, I want you to think about how you might apply each to your scenario. Consider which of the five core concerns might be the most affected. In this post, we will focus on appreciation and affiliation. What can you say or do that will meet the concern and stimulate positive emotions?

The first core concern is appreciation. Appreciation addresses our thoughts, feelings, and actions – our sense of valued recognition. Are our thoughts, feelings and actions devalued or are they acknowledged as having merit? 

As you probably guessed, we do not feel appreciated when our thoughts, feelings and actions are devalued. We do feel appreciated when our thoughts, feelings, and actions are acknowledged as having merit. Appreciation affects all our professional and personal relationships. 

Obstacles to demonstrating appreciation for others result from:

  • Failing to understand their point of view
  • Criticizing the merit in whatever they say or do
  • Failing to communicate any merit we see in their thoughts, feeling, or actions. 

We demonstrate appreciation when we acknowledge that their thoughts, feelings, and actions have merit, which requires:

  • Seeking to understand – get curious! Ask good questions and then really listen. 
  • Finding Merit in what another person thinks, feels, and does. This does not mean we agree! For example: “I find your arguments persuasive.”; “I admire the pride you put into your work.”; “I value what you do around here.”
  • Communicate your understanding and offer statements acknowledging merit. For example: Reflect back what you hear to demonstrate you listened and ensure you have heard their message accurately and use affirming tones. 

And don’t forget to help others appreciate you!

  • Help others understand your point of view by making sure it is a good time for them to listen to you and tailor your message in a way they can hear it.
  • Help others find merit in what you think, feel or do by simply asking them to find merit in your point of view. For instance: “I am not sure I am being clear. Why do you think this is important to me?” Or perhaps draw on a metaphor that resonates with them. For instance: “I feel we are trying to swim upstream, how can we make this easier for both of us?” 
  • Help others hear your message. Have a few big points, ask them what they hear you saying.
  • Remember the importance of self-appreciation. You cannot control the actions of others; however, you are able to appreciate another and yourself.

Appreciation is probably the most important of the five core concerns because we are all emotionally rewarded when we are appreciated for who we are and what we do.

The second core concern is affiliation. Affiliation describes our sense of connectedness with another person or group.

We tend to not feel affiliated when we are treated as an adversary and kept at a distance. We feel affiliation when we are treated as a colleague.

People want to belong and feel a connection with their colleagues at some level. When we feel affiliated with one another, working together is easier. An honest connection helps build loyalty, trust, and motivation to each for an agreement of mutual benefit.

Affiliation shifts the energy from a me versus you conversation to a “we” conversation, which allows you to work side by side and address the issues. 

Ways to increase affiliation:

  • Meet in person rather than via phone, computer or email (during COVID-19 social distancing use video and phone instead of email, text and Instant Messaging) 
  • Discuss things you care about
  • Consider giving space to bring you closer
  • Keep in contact
  • Hold private meetings
  • Remember to check your head and GUT to avoid being exploited – by using your head and your gut, you protect yourself from being manipulated by affiliation. 

Check back next week to uncover how the three remaining core concerns: autonomy, status and fulfilling roles, foster cooperative relationships and improve negotiations. 

You may watch CU Boulder Ombuds Office’s Lunch and Learn “Embrace the Emotion: Five Core Concerns of Negotiation” here.

Watch Daniel Shapiro, PhD, a world renowed expert on negotiation and conflict resolution and co-author of Beyond Reason: Using Emotions as You Negotiate discuss the five core concerns here.

*I am defining negotiation as a process by which two or more people seek to advance their individual interests by agreeing on a desired action.

By: Elizabeth Hill, Associate Director, University of Colorado Boulder Ombuds Office

2 thoughts on “Embrace the Emotions: Five Core Concerns (Part 1 of 2)”

  1. Pingback: Embrace the Emotion: Five Core Concerns (Part 2 of 2) – Ombuzz

  2. Pingback: Knowing and Navigating Decision Rules « Harvard Negotiation & Mediation Clinical Program

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