by Gaëtan Pellerin, author of “Mindful NEGOtiation: Becoming More Aware in the Moment, Conquering Your Ego and Getting Everyone What They Really Want“
Are you starting your own business? Beginning a new job? Angling for a promotion? In all of these instances, there are many “sharks” waiting to take advantage of you. By sharks, I mean people you will negotiate with in the future — whether a client, a potential buyer for your business, or even a business partner.
Negotiation looks easier from the outside looking in. Most of us believe that negotiation is about being rational. Therefore, we should be able to stay in control without losing our cool… until things don’t go as planned, our stress level goes through the roof, and we don’t know what to do next.
What’s happening is that we are dealing with something that has nothing to do with our intellect, talent, or skill. It comes down to emotions: perhaps we’re afraid of making a mistake or fearful of speaking up and expressing our needs. Maybe we want to prove ourselves or are fearful of losing face.
Sharks want to intimidate you or force you to agree to their demands. They might have an aggressive and bullying style of negotiating. In other words, they are looking for blood. The last thing you want to do in this kind of situation is be controlled by your emotions.
These five mindful tips are geared to help you negotiate in the workplace:
1. Map out your emotional response.
Many people negotiate poorly because they fall victim to their emotions and don’t manage them. The best way to map out your emotional response is to imagine “what if scenarios” during the planning stage — before you negotiate with the other party. For example:
- How would you react if someone is trying to intimidate or bully you?
- What if your boss doesn’t agree with your solution or idea?
- Are you afraid of delivering bad news and are already negotiating with yourself before meeting with the other party?
Paying attention to your emotional response and practicing your reactions before you encounter the other party is a key step to helping you negotiate calmly and effectively.
2. Be realistic about your leverage and what you can or can’t bring to the table.
Most people underestimate their power and overestimate the other side’s power. Don’t let your emotions dictate the leverage you wield. You might think that you don’t have any power as you prepare to negotiate with Walmart, Microsoft, or another large organization. This is about the perception of leverage. The actual power resides in your ability to put yourself in the other party’s shoes. How is your solution or product helping them to be better, move forward, or minimize risk?
If you’re starting your own business, you may think that you have the most unique solution, and you might feel that you have all the power. Don’t let your emotions trick you. To succeed in negotiating with potential shark negotiators, you’ll be better equipped if you’re realistic about your leverage.
3. Define your limits before the start of the negotiation.
This is probably the most challenging element of your preparation, as most people don’t want to be bound by limits. You need to pause and be mindful to identify how far you are willing to go.
You can gain power by telling the other side that what they are asking is beyond what you were prepared to do, and you will need to go back to your internal stakeholder. They might not like it, but it shows a lot of poise and an ability to stand your ground. If you don’t define your limits ahead of time, shark negotiators will likely steamroll you, and you will be challenged to think on your feet while the other side pressures you to concede to one more thing.
4. Slow down your response time.
Don’t be quick to accept their first proposal even if your counterpart wants you to believe that they are making only one offer by saying something like “take it or leave it.” Give yourself some space to think. You shouldn’t accept the first proposal, as most of us rarely start negotiations with our best offer.
You are not going to damage the relationship by declining the first proposal. It will demonstrate that people can’t intimidate you. By slowing down your response time, you are keeping control of your emotions.
5. Watch out for physical signs that show you’re feeling pressure or stress.
If the negotiation doesn’t go as planned, pay attention to what happens inside your body.
If you feel your chest tightening, jaw tensing, or blood pressure rising, it’s probably the impact of stress and tension. Your first reaction might be to give up or give in. It happens to all of us. Keep breathing, and mindfully ask yourself what an outside observer would suggest to control your emotions and move the process forward.
It could be pausing and asking about their proposal (how did they arrive at these figures?)
It could be the right moment for a timeout and an agreement to meet in a few days.
You could explore together other solutions that could be amenable for both sides.
You might think that your lack of experience will play against you. However, applying these mindful tips might help you gain your power back and allow you to stay in control of emotions (yours and theirs). Managing emotions can be very challenging, even for seasoned negotiators, but it is often the key to success in navigating negotiations in the workplace.
Gaëtan Pellerin has spent the last ten years as a negotiation consultant-coach, helping negotiators hone their skills, and prepare and rehearse for their upcoming live deals. His new book is called “Mindful NEGOtiation: Becoming More Aware in the Moment, Conquering Your Ego and Getting Everyone What They Really Want“.