In Negotiation, Be Empathetic, Not Sympathetic

Want to make sure your next negotiation goes as smoothly as possible? Make sure you're using empathy, not sympathy.

Empathy is an essential quality in negotiation. How can you find common ground and create value? But empathy is not the same as sympathy. It's important to distinguish between the two, so you can use empathy to your advantage.

What's the difference between empathy and sympathy?

Empathy is the ability to understand and share another person's feelings. Sympathy is feeling sorry for someone. When empathizing with someone, you can see things from their perspective and understand their situation. Being empathetic doesn't mean you agree with them or condone their actions; it just means you can see things from their point of view.

Being sympathetic entails feeling sorry for another person. We may not understand what they are going through, but we sympathize with them. Unfortunately, sympathy can cloud your judgment and lead you to make decisions based on emotions rather than logic.

Why is empathy important in negotiations?

Empathy is crucial because it allows you to see things from the perspective and understand their needs. Exploring will enable you to find common ground and build rapport. In addition, it will prevent you from making generous concessions or giving in to emotional manipulation.

On the other hand, sympathy will only serve to undermine your negotiating position. If you're feeling sorry for the other person, you're more likely to give in to their demands or make concessions that are not in your best interest. Sympathy will also cloud your judgment and prevent you from seeing things objectively.

How can I use empathy in negotiations?

The first step is to try to understand the other person's situation. What are their goals? What do they need to achieve a successful outcome? Once you have a good understanding of their goals and constraints, it will be easier for you to find areas of common ground. Furthermore, you will build rapport and trust by showing genuine interest in their goals and objectives—two critical components of any successful negotiation.

It's also important to remember that empathizing with someone does not mean you have to agree with them or give in to their demands. Quite often, the opposite is true—the better you understand their position, the easier it will be for you to use stall tactics or play hardball when necessary. Again, the key is using empathy to help you better understand the other person and find ways to create value for both parties involved.

Aligned DEMYSTIFIES what successful negotiation looks like