Get in the Right State of Mind for Any Negotiation

Source: Michael Wheeler, Harvard Business Review, May 5, 2015

….Together with my colleagues Kimberlyn Leary and Julianna Pillemer, both of whom are psychologists, I’ve explored the thoughts and feelings that people bring to the bargaining table. We did in-depth interviews with seasoned negotiators, all with two or more decades of experience under their belts. (You can read more about our research in “Negotiating with Emotion.”)

Every person we interviewed expressed some degree of anxiety about negotiation. With a few subjects, it was only a minor concern, but with most it was the dominant emotion. And if you think about it, that’s not surprising.

∙ People were concerned about the unpredictability of the process. Will it be easy to reach agreement or hard? Is an acceptable deal even possible?
∙ Then there were worries about other people’s intentions. Win-win negotiation sounds great, people said, but what if the other party is a cutthroat?
∙ Plus there was ample self-doubt. Even after sealing a deal, people wonder if they left money on the table — or pushed too hard and damaged a relationship.

Such feelings hamper effective negotiation. If anxiety isn’t properly managed, it can make you defensive — and lots of other bad things will follow. You may be reluctant to reveal your interests, for example, fearful of being exploited. And if you’re wary of others, you may be too quick to interpret an innocent question as a ploy. Most important, if you are tense and closed yourself, others may misread your defensiveness as hostility and prompt them to be defensive themselves. Tensions may escalate as a result….