BEST NEGOTIATING TIP 1008: ANXIETY
A lion is king of the jungle. He does not show fear, he smells it. When you are negotiating conceal your anxiety lest the other person sense it and use it against you.
It is natural to have some anxiety whenever you are in conflict with another person; especially someone you don't know well. First of all, the reason for all negotiations is to settle some form of conflict. Conflict by its very nature is stressful even if the issue is very minor.
The root of the anxiety is typically the fear of the unknown. In dispute settlement scenarios, the unknown adversary, unknown issues, unknown outcome and potential unknown consequences can give you pause from even starting the conversation. But be comforted by the fact that anxiety is a healthy reaction to conflict, A.K.A. negotiating. The outcome is uncertain so you are finding your way through a mine field of sorts to get to your goal. It is the unknown that causes anxiety, not the process of negotiating.
Anxiety does not precede all negotiations. Conflict can arise totally unexpectedly. The most common negotiations not preceded with some form of anxiety are family or workplace altercations that erupt on the spot between two or more participants. In these situations you can be easily blindsided by an outburst from another person. Unprepared, the best you can do is to settle back and try to source the reason for the outburst. This can be challenging if the other person is highly agitated and not disposed to holding a rational conversation. Your best course of action is to deploy empathetic and comforting tactics to calm the water so you can begin to unravel what caused the outburst.
When you are gripped with high anxiety before a negotiation or other conflict resolution situation there are three things you can do to steady your nerves:
- Focus on the fact that the other person, whether a lender, lawyer, boxer or the irate spouse of your lover is just a person after all and can't really do you great bodily harm with the possible exception of the irate spouse. So this will be a duel of words; not swords or pistols.
- Review the preparation you have done garnering confidence and conviction from the fact that you are well prepared. You did prepare, right?
- Appreciate that the other person does not know you, either, and is likely as apprehensive as you are. With this in mind, your opening tactic should be to take control of the conversation and actively seek to put the other person at ease. This allows you to exude confidence and control of the situation
Creating anxiety in a negotiation is an aggressive, deflective tactic often deployed by negotiators to throw the other person off-balance or create havoc in the process. Introducing new facts, raising pertinent questions and challenging the assumptions can unsettle the other person. The tone of the questions can range from simply inquiries to downright accusations. Depending on the result you are seeking the tone will deliver the message with clarity.
In the business environment many negotiators are not well-trained in their field. They are hired to handle specific aspects of the company's business and if asked about related activities can flounder and become unsure of their position. Raising such ancillary issues can throw them off track and create opportunities. Don't be afraid to expand the discussion around the direct focus to see if there are other issues that might help your cause.