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“It was fun but before I knew it, I was negotiating better.”  

Updated: 23 Aug 2020

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.

In our approach to both our personal and professional lives, everybody has their own unique style when dealing with problem-solving, dispute resolutions, or negotiations. Our individual personalities were formed early in our childhood, tempered and sculpted by a lifetime from 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 lurks down the road of life.

Our individualistic style defines how we will react in our everyday interaction with our fellow human beings. Whether it be the idiot who cuts you off in rush hour, barely grazing your brand new auto; how you cope with your anxiety spikes from an insensitive angry co-worker, or how you negotiate a business venture. We all react and cope with these scenarios differently. We confront aggressively; sigh in stoic resignation; abjectly surrender to the moment; or impersonally rationalise the moment, and everything in between.

Generally, we usually undergo a dual process of emotionally reacting, while applying rational thinking in some context, during our more challenging moments. Mostly, we tend to react emotionally and viscerally. Anxiety sparks first with our gut and heart, and then we might find ourselves apply the reasoning process later. We cannot escape the ancient genetics of our animal nature, which gave us the instincts to deal with our past, as we slogged our way out of the primal mud hole. Sometimes, it’s difficult to separate our basic animal instincts, such as ‘fight or flight’, and our higher abilities to think and rationalise. There’s a bit of ‘Jekyll and Hyde‘ within all of us.

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 outside the door. The fact is that few of us do escape the anxiety negotiation throws in our path, and to some extent, we can’t. It is virtually impossible, as an emotional rational thinking individual, to simply completely disassociate ourselves from our nature. A negotiator must learn to recognise their responses and reactions as they relate to any situation, and with the people we interact, at any given moment.

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 mould 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 good 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.

Despite taking the best negotiation courses, many business people 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 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. Secondly, we must always remember to apply rational thought to our problem solving, in reaching an agreement. Or, 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 our counterpart. 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.

Should our counterpart attack us on a personal basis, or is insulting, we should let these negative or demeaning words flow off of us like ‘water off a ducks back’. Remember the old saying that ‘Sticks and stones can hurt us, but words never can harm us’ . 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.

We need to acknowledge what we perceive as our failings, then summarily dismiss them as irrelevant to our task at hand. Likewise, we must also be very careful how we perceive the failings of our counterpart, less we mistakenly allow 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 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, and by 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, when you 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 your counterpart. Your style is your own unique strength, once you learn to use it to suit yourself. It’s your move!

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