BLOG: Leadership Insights

Get Email Updates

GILD 2013: Communication and “Nemotiation”

October 15, 2013
Jamil Mahuad, former President of Ecuador.

Jamil Mahuad knows a thing or two about negotiation. As President of Ecuador, he negotiated the end of the longest-standing international military conflict in the Western Hemisphere and signed a definitive peace treaty with neighboring country Peru. In his session on “Communication and Negotiation,” he shared his incredible story and delivered insights that are applicable in any sphere.

The Art of “Nemotiation”

The currency of leadership is attention. But the glue of leadership is connection. You need to be connected with people and if you lose that connection, it’s very difficult to get it back. But how do we connect with others? You cannot over-emphasize the role of emotions. That’s why the art of successful negotiation is “nemotiation”–negotiation that incorporates emotions. Every single one of us has our interactions colored by emotions, even if it happens at an unconscious level. If you don’t address emotions, you are boycotting your own success.

There are a wide range of emotions, but they can be clustered into five essential needs. And while these needs may be expressed differently in different cultures, they exist universally across cultures:

  1. Appreciation. All human beings need to hear something good about themselves. But it must be authentic. If you lie, others will pick up on it and won’t trust you–that’s manipulation. Find something real and express merit.
  2. Affiliation. We look for ways to build a relationship. Even if it’s tenuous–your name is Edward and my wife’s uncle is also named Edward–it’s a way to share common ground. In any negotiation, start by finding affiliation and plant your foot there.
  3. Autonomy. We don’t like to be told what to do; we want to make our own decisions. So respect that right on the other side. Don’t lecture others but let them be free to make and influence decisions.
  4. Status. We have a mental picture in our minds of who we are and we expect to be treated accordingly. We assume (and it’s a big assumption) that the rest of the world has the same mental picture that we do, so if someone doesn’t behave as we expect, we feel insulted. We use language such as “you don’t know who you are talking to” or “who do you think you are?”
  5. Role. We all need to play meaningful roles. We play multiple roles simultaneously–father, son, manager, little league coach, etc.–and not all of them may be meaningful. The golden rule here is that you are not what you do. You need to differentiate people from their roles. A role is like a suit: you can change it.


There are hundreds of books and theories on communication. Jamil focused on and contrasted two, which helped him and oriented him in his political life. The first is the transportation theory. In this example, communication is like sending a package. You take it to FedEx and they deliver it to the recipient. What you sent and what they received is exactly the same. The transportation mechanism doesn’t affect the message; what’s important is the package.

The famous “Daisy” ad–a Lyndon B. Johnson political ad created for his 1964 campaign against Barry Goldwater–is an example of the resonance theory of communication.

Goldwater had said that we should use small atomic weapons in certain situations and this ad addressed that. But nowhere in the ad is Goldwater or his policies explicitly mentioned. The resonance theory says that the most important part of a communication isn’t the message but the reaction it evokes in the recipient. To be successful, you need to understand how the audience thinks and provide the right stimulus to get the desired response.

Adaptive Leadership

There are two types of problems. In the first case, we know the solution. It’s a technical problem, which needs a technical fix. This is work for managers. They know the problem and they know the solution–it’s a matter of competence. In the second case, we don’t know the problem and we don’t know the solution. This is an adaptive problem; we need to provide direction and get feedback. This is work for leaders. That’s why it’s so difficult to exercise leadership. Note: no one is a leader; rather, you exercise leadership.

To quote Ronald Heifetz: “Exercising leadership is…the capacity to deliver disturbing news and raise difficult questions in a way that people can absorb, prodding them to take up the message rather than ignore it, or kill the messenger.” That capacity requires nemotiation and effective communication.

Now, it’s your turn. Have you mastered the art of communication or–just as importantly–nemotiation? Tell us about it in the comments below.

Dark haired woman watches from audience of conference event

Women in Leadership Institute

NOV. 13–16, 2023 | Orlando, Florida, or Virtual
A 4-day immersive learning experience designed to equip women leaders with actionable strategies to overcome the hurdles women often face in the workplace.

Posted In


Enrich Your inbox

with timely, relevant leadership insights

Join more than 15,000 others and subscribe to Linkage Leadership Insights: your resource for leadership development-related topics that matter to you, from the advancement of women leaders to diversity and inclusion and purposeful leadership. Plus, get all the latest Linkage news delivered to your inbox.

Related Posts

All Insights

Start Your Journey

Speak with a Linkage expert today