Saturday Morning Rounds August 29, 2020 - In defense of the psychologically rich life, and how to use negative emotions in a negotiation

Posted by BossB, MD on August 29, 2020
BossB, MD

Saturday Morning Rounds

A weekly round-up of career & negotiation content for women physicians

What got our attention

In this article, recently published in The Scientific American (which is currently celebrating its 175 year anniversary!), the author offers an incredibly compelling new framework:
"What does it mean to live a good life? ... In the field of psychology, two main conceptualizations of the good life have predominated: A happy life... and a meaningful life. But what if these aren’t the only options?

In recent years, a long-neglected version of the good life has been receiving greater research attention: the psychologically rich life. The psychologically rich life is full of complex mental engagement, a wide range of intense and deep emotions, and diverse, novel, surprising and interesting experiences. Sometimes the experiences are pleasant, sometimes they are meaningful, and sometimes they are neither pleasant nor meaningful. However, they are rarely boring or monotonous.

Recent research on psychological richness has found that it is related to, but partially distinct from, both happy and meaningful lives. Psychological richness is much more strongly correlated with curiosity, openness to experience and experiencing both positive and negative emotions more intensely."

The article is pretty short and well worth a full read - and in our "tip of the week" we'll provide some ideas for how you might apply the concept. 

Who we're following 

The author of this week's article, Scott Barry Kaufman (@sbkaufman) is one of the clearest modern thinkers on the topics of well-being, meaning, creativity, and really just the human mind in general.

He is a prolific researcher and writer, as well as an engaged and interesting Tweeter. You'd be hard-pressed to find any other source that provides more novel, scientifically-backed insights about the human condition -  definitely worth a follow.

BBMD tip of the week

We talk a lot around here about "emotional resonance," - a sense of emotional connection and alignment, of "vibing" with someone. And the reason we talk about it so often is that if you focus on maximizing this variable, especially during a negotiation, everything else just tends to fall in place a lot easier.

But a common misconception is that emotional resonance needs to be centered around positive emotions. That's simply not the case. Emotional resonance is about feeling a sense of connection with and goodwill toward your counterpart, period, regardless of the emotional valence that's being experienced. 

And that's where the alignment with this concept of the psychologically rich life  comes into play. The psychologically rich life focuses on heightening and fully experiencing ALL emotions - a kind of increasing of emotional resonance with oneself, in a way. And we know from research on negativity bias that human beings are far more (~5-10x) reactive to negative stimuli than to positive stimuli.

So how exactly does this relate to negotiations?

Well, almost any "ask" we would make in a negotiation comes from a gap between our counterpart's offer and what we want, and gaps have tension (negative emotional energy).

So, once you get into emotional sync with your counterpart, you use that tension by taking them temporarily into the negative emotional state that you experience when you are faced with said "gap" - a great way to frame your negotiation ask.

This all sounds kind of theoretical in writing, so here's an example from our curriculum of a role-play that our students do to learn how to use the combination of negative emotions AND emotional resonance together to their advantage:

Screen Shot 2020-08-29 at 12.16.23 PM
Screen Shot 2020-08-29 at 12.16.38 PM

In the example above, we're coaching our students to explicitly and directly bring up one of the most emotionally charged topics possible in a negotiation - the gender pay gap.

The motions are as follows:

  • Double down on emotional resonance and give them a positive vision of themselves to live up to: "draws me to this practice... everyone here has a high level of integrity"
  • Highlight the tension and shift them into your negative emotional frame: "bit surprised and, honestly, disappointed"
  • Avoid defensiveness but maintain tension: "Now I’m sure it’s not intentional or malicious, but this is an impossible pill for me as a woman to swallow. I’d be lying to you if I didn’t tell you that stings.”
  • Sit in silence and watch them jump through hoops you never would have thought possible to relieve said tension and get back into a positive emotional state w/you

Quote we're contemplating

"Then a woman said, Speak to us of Joy and Sorrow.
And he answered:
Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.
And how else can it be?
The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.
Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven?
And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives?
When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.
When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.

Some of you say, “Joy is greater than sorrow,” and others say, “Nay, sorrow is the greater.”
But I say unto you, they are inseparable.
Together they come, and when one sits alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed."

- Kahlil Gibran

PS - If you were forwarded this email and enjoyed it, subscribe here to make sure you don't miss out on future ones!
PPS - As always, please let us know your requests and suggestions by replying to this email (we read 'em all) or getting at us via Twitter. Which section above is your favorite? What do you want more or less of? Just send a tweet to @BossB_MD and put #SaturdayMorningRounds in there so we can find it.

Have a wonderful weekend, y'all!