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Updated: 11 Apr 2021

Negotiation Anxiety Solved



Most people report feelings of anxiety when negotiating Anxiety is more of a hindrance than a help. So what can be done? This article shares how negotiation styles can be your path out of anxious negotiations and towards far better negotiated results.

Who We Are

In both our personal and professional lives, we all have our own unique style. This is also true when dealing with problem-solving, dispute resolutions, and negotiations. Our individual personalities were formed early in childhood, tempered and sculpted by a lifetime of coping with the anxiety-provoking raw experience of life. Every situation that we face acts as a teaching aid. We learn to adapt our own unique style in tackling any future problems that lurk down the road of life.

Our individualistic style defines how we will react in our everyday interactions with our fellow human beings. Whether it be the idiot who cuts you off in rush hour or how you negotiate a business venture: We all react and cope with situations differently. Variably, we confront aggressively; sigh in stoic resignation; abjectly surrender to the moment; or impersonally rationalize the moment, and everything in between.

Leave Emotions Behind

Generally, we usually undergo a dual process. We react emotionally alongside applying rational thinking in some context. Mostly, we tend to react emotionally and viscerally. Anxiety sparks first with our gut and heart, and then we might find ourselves applying the reasoning process later.

We cannot escape the ancient genetics of our animal nature. These gave us the instincts to deal with our past, as we slogged our way out of the primal mud hole. However, sometimes it’s difficult to separate our basic animal instincts, such as “fight or flight,” and our higher abilities to think and rationalize. 

Yet, this is the complex mixture that we bring to the table as negotiators. Above all else, we should always make every effort to leave our emotional baggage at the door. The fact is that few of us do escape the anxiety that negotiation throws in our path. To some extent, we can’t. It’s virtually impossible, as an emotional rational thinking individual, to simply completely disassociate ourselves from our nature. A negotiator must learn to recognize their responses and reactions as they relate to any situation, and with the people we interact with, at any given moment.

Accept Others’ Negotiating Styles

In order to conquer our emotions, it’s important to be accepting of others’ negotiating styles. A person’s negotiating style can vary, from anywhere between the friendly easy-going style, to that of a loud bellicose and aggressive style. Some people like a chameleon changes colours, can alter their negotiating styles to match their opposite’s style.

Yet, many others remain rigidly stuck in the mold of their own creation. Let’s face it, many studies support the findings that when two bellicose negotiators square off like a couple of broken nosed pugilists, they rarely come out of the room with an agreement, let alone a very impressive one.

On the other side of the coin, it doesn’t mean a negotiator is a soft touch because he uses the soft approach. He can still be as hard-nosed just as easily as a blustery, obnoxious negotiator. Pleasantly smiling, the entire time he hammers out a hard-negotiated but beneficial agreement for his company or constituents.

Be True to Your Negotiating Style

Despite taking the best negotiation courses, many businesspeople and some negotiators liken business to conducting an anxious “war” or a “battle of wills.” Others prefer to view it as a game, such as chess or poker. There have been numerous books and papers written to support both of these analogous comparisons or metaphors, within which we tend to conduct our negotiation frameworks.

Most professional experts on the subject suggest we need to acknowledge the anxiety-laden emotional components of the negotiation. Those that spring from not only ourselves, but more importantly from our counterparty as well. Also, we must always remember to apply rational thought to our problem-solving to reach an agreement. However, we might simply decide whether it is more prudent to walk away when our interests and positions are simply too incompatible.

The point is, we don’t have to surrender our own unique negotiation style to accommodate the style of the other side. We don’t have to adapt unethical tactics to score a victory. It’s not about winning or losing; it’s about substance and achieving an objective. If the other side is using unsavoury gambits, these can be countered.

Don’t Let Yourself Be Ruled

Should another team’s negotiator attack us on a personal basis, or be insulting, we should let these negative or demeaning words flow off of us like water off a duck’s back.” Remember the old saying that “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words never hurt me.” Words only have power over us if we give them power. Unfortunately, on too many occasions we forget this very important point, and anxiety builds.

Whether we consciously acknowledge it or not, we all have a philosophical approach to life which spills into our negotiations. We all have our issues and our self doubts, which influence our own unique styles at the bargaining table. They can act as a detriment or hindrance on occasion. They need not diminish us or our abilities so long as we don’t let them rule and dictate how we operate.

First, we need to acknowledge what we perceive as our failings. Then, we need to summarily dismiss them as irrelevant to our task at hand. Likewise, we must also be very careful in how we perceive the failings of the other side. We should be careful to avoid mistakenly allowing ourselves to succumb to overconfidence. All of us want to be treated with respect, yet we don’t always accord others with the same amount of respect we think we deserve in kind.

Confidence Kills Anxiety

Confidence and egotism are unfortunately often confused with each other. Yet, they are extremely different. Confidence comes from:

  • Being prepared for our talks.
  • Our professional competence.
  • Accepting and being at peace with who you are as a person. 

Forget about what other people do; you’re not them and they aren’t you.

You will find your confidence when you stop being at odds with yourself or playing the comparison game. Your negotiation style will flow harmoniously when you aren’t at odds with your nature. True confidence grows when you can notice anxiety building and choose a more useful path. You can view your style as an appropriate expression of yourself. It doesn’t have to be compromised to suit anybody else, especially the other side. Your style is your own unique strength, once you learn to use it to suit yourself – it’s your move!

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