Whether you are trying to close a deal with a customer or mediate a dispute between co-workers, you know it is important for any agreement to feel fair. But how can you predict whether the person you are negotiating with will feel your offer is fair? Here are some strategies for using emotional intelligence to promote fairness.

What is Fair?

Everything has an inborn sense of fairness. But what does it mean to be fair? Cambridge Dictionary defines “fair” as:

“Treating someone in a way that is right or reasonable, or treating a group of people equally and not allowing personal opinions to influence your judgment”

Something is fair if it is reasonable, and what you believe you expect or deserve. It must be seen as impartial, honest, and free from self-interest, prejudice, or favoritism. Fairness isn’t exactly the same as equality, though they are often treated the same.

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How Emotions and Fairness Intersect

You may assume that fairness is an objective thing; that people will decide whether an offer is a “good deal” based on financial calculations or other objective measurements. But increasingly it appears that people operate under a natural sense of fairness that is as much emotional as it is logical. Business owners, sales people, and others involved in making offers and resolving disagreements need to understand how their customers and co-workers’ emotions are affecting their decision-making in response to your offers.

A 2017 study re-evaluated traditional theories around fairness, revealing that “emotion plays a critical role in this type of decision making.”  If an offer violates a person’s internal “natural” feeling of fairness, they are less likely to accept the deal or buy in to the agreement. A well-reasoned judgment may be based on the facts, but those facts include the type and intensity of a person’s emotions, as well as objective, measurable facts.

Using Emotional Intelligence to Promote Fairness

Since emotions are an essential part of fairness, emotional intelligence can be an important tool for managers and business owners negotiating with their employees or customers. Remember, that emotional intelligence is made up of 5 aspects:

  • Motivation
  • Self-Regulation
  • Self-Awareness
  • Empathy
  • Social Awareness

Each of these aspects can impact feelings of fairness, making it easier to lead customers to say yes, and employees to resolve workplace disputes.

Motivation Helps Business Owners Understand Customers Priorities

Coming up with a fair offer depends on understanding what motivates your customers and employees. This means considering their priorities, and goals, so that you can tailor your offers to meet their needs. For example, if you are trying to retain new talent, you won’t be able to sweeten the deal by offering “perks” or “incentives” that don’t line up with what future employees want.

Self-Regulation Shows the Limits of Emotion’s Impact on Fairness

Self-regulation is the part of emotional intelligence that allows you to persevere when things don’t go your way. A person with a high ability of self-regulation will be able to control their emotions and negotiate more effectively to meet their objective goals. By recognizing your employees’ or customers’ ability to regulate their emotions, you can predict their willingness to accept a deal that may not be fair, or act against their own self-interest.

Self-Awareness Can Help You Recognize When Your Offer is Feeling Unfair

If self-regulation measures your ability to control your own emotions, self-awareness helps you gauge the emotional responses of others, particularly in response to your own behavior. High self-awareness allows you to recognize when your employees or customers are less receptive to your offer, and may show you when you are being unfair.

Empathy is At the Heart of Measuring Employees’ Perceived Fairness

Empathy is your ability to comprehend the emotions of others around you. That is essential to creating an offer or resolution that feels fair. Using your sense of your employees’ emotions can be the best predictor of how your suggestions to resolve conflicts and dissolve workplace disputes. You must consider your employees’ emotions, and try to predict their response to your offer, based on your understanding of their needs and motivations.

Social Awareness Allows You to Identify Your Unique Business Offering for Customers

Social Awareness looks beyond the immediate conflict or dispute to consider the social dynamics of your workplace or industry. By applying your social awareness to your business position or workplace culture, you can describe your unique business offering, redefine your workplace culture, and shift the social dynamic in your favor to make everyone feel your offer is fair.

The more you develop your emotional intelligence as a manager or business owner, the more you can promote fairness in your workplace, and with your customers. By understanding the emotions of everyone involved in the negotiating process, you can promote fairness and reach a more favorable decision for everyone.

David Stanislaw is a leadership and executive coach with over 30 years’ experience helping managers and business owners develop their emotional intelligence. Contact us to meet with David and start building your emotional intelligence today.