Tips To Turn Your Negotiation Anxiety Into Confidence For Success


Stressful conversations can cause a lot of anxiety. As a negotiation consultant, I help clients through those stressful conversations every day and I have witnessed first-hand that people can be their own worst enemies when it comes to these moments. I get it. You’re worried about making a mistake and that you might look foolish or hurt your credibility. Or worse yet, you worry that you might be perceived as greedy or aggressive, thus, damaging a relationship. And who’s going to want to work with you again if you’ve done this perceived damage?

Anxious negotiators are known to make weaker opening proposals, make more frequent counterproposals, and are quicker to succumb to the other party’s demands. As a result, they made deals that were 12% less financially attractive than neutral negotiators (those who hadn’t been forced to listen to the menacing soundtrack of the movie Psycho).

It's no surprise that negotiations cause a lot of anxiety. And, according to a 2011 Harvard study, “feeling or even looking anxious can result in suboptimal negotiation outcomes.”

To make sure that you’re not losing out check out these tips to increase your confidence—and your bank account.

Reinterpret those butterflies

When we face a stressful situation, our heart starts racing and we start to feel those butterflies. That elevated energy could push us into a couple of different directions. Researchers at Harvard took a deeper look at what happens when we’re faced with a stimulus that can create those butterflies. Participants were asked to belt out a tune in front of a group and according to a computer that measured volume and pitch, those who told themselves “I am excited” outperformed those who told themselves “I am anxious” and those who told themselves nothing. They even outperformed the others on a math and speech test. You can be your own worst enemy if you focus on those negative feelings. But you can psych yourself up instead of psyching yourself out! By turning your anxiety into excitement, you can change your brain and get better results! If you can improve your performance on a math test, imagine what you can do for yourself in a negotiation by simply telling yourself “I’m so excited to create a solution to this problem” or “I’m so excited to get what I want!”

Reframe defeat with one word

It’s easy to psych yourself out and think “I can’t do it” or “I’ve never been able to deal with this person.” Such definitive language closes a door. But one word can turn it around and open a door. Adding the word “yet” can open a world of possibilities and a challenge for you instead of an obstacle. It goes back to the principle of psyching yourself up instead of psyching yourself out. The stories we tell ourselves have a dramatic impact on how we perform.

Focus on what can you control

One of the reasons for the anxiety is the fear of the unknown. What will the other party say or do? There are a million unknowns, but a better use of your energy is using it to prepare. Put that attention into what you do know. Do a little research to minimize the unknowns. What data could you look up? What do you know about the person you’re about to encounter? What is predictable about this situation so you can anticipate and prevent some of the drama—or at least not be shocked when it comes. And even practice what you want to say so that your brain is familiar with what is going to come out of your mouth, and you don’t feel like you’re stumbling over your words.

Reflect on past victories

It’s easy to worry about what could go wrong but it’s even easier to focus on some past victories. Everything from a high school basketball game to that time you got your toddler to eat something green. If you can succeed in those circumstances, you’re certainly capable of succeeding again. When professional athletes are in the locker room getting ready for a big game you better believe they’re not spending their last few minutes focusing on the worst-case scenario, they’re reminding themselves of how they got there in the first place!

Visualize it

Psych yourself up by focusing on those times that you felt victorious to give your brain a boost right when you need it.

You might be feeling some dread now but how will you feel when you’ve nailed this negotiation? If you can see it, you can achieve it so picture yourself standing up tall and sounding as confident as you need to get it done. Those positive visual images will settle in your subconscious brain and start pushing you in the direction of achieving that goal without you even realizing it. Take it a step further and engage the other senses, imagine what it will smell like when you walk out of the room victorious or the taste of that first sip of a celebratory cocktail. Relish in that feeling and your brain will get a nice buzz to get you a little closer to that moment. You may even find yourself looking forward to negotiating!

Recite a positive mantra

It sounds cheesy, but it works. Whether it’s telling yourself that “I deserve this” or “I am going to conquer this moment” you choose. Your brain could stand to hear a few positive words and get the subconscious ready to knock that anxiety out of its way. It’s easy for our subconscious to take the easy negative road of worry and anxiety so engage your conscious brain to help take up that space.

It may seem daunting to go after what you want. And inevitably it will stir up some emotions. Be ready for them by turning that anxiety into excitement and prepare your brain for those rollercoaster moments to come with these simple tools to psych yourself up for a fruitful conversation.

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