So sang rock musician Elvis Costello. And nothing creates fear like the
prospect of a negotiation. People are fearful about negotiation for many
reasons. They fear negotiation because of a lack of control, they fear losing,
or maybe they fear that they will be outwitted and embarrassed by an aggressive
Fear is a distressing reaction caused by impending danger, evil, or pain
which is manifested by dread to meet or experience the danger. Fear in
negotiation is real. It manifests itself with psychological symptoms that
include not thinking straight. Your mind races from one bad potential outcome to
the next, rather than staying in the moment and listening. Thoughts can include
running away, which seems a prudent decision given your anxiety.
There are also physiological symptoms of fear. Your blood pressure rises. You
breathe irregularly and shallowly. You perspire. You get cotton mouth. Your body
tenses and your back aches. Your eyes squint while you look about nervously like
a rabbit preparing to “hightail it” out of town.
You can combat fear in negotiation in a number of ways:
– You can avoid it, but this only works temporarily since life will require
you to negotiate again and again.
– Greet it by acknowledging that a little
fear is a normal thing; this is a healthy response.
– Preparation can make
you confident and minimize the fear; good negotiators are always prepared.
Take on the behavior of a confident negotiator and act as if you are not
fearful; this can include breathing deeply, making good eye contact, and careful
– Avoid rushing to an agreement. Fear can trip you up when you
don’t take the time to look at all options.
– Take fear “head-on” by seeking
it and conquering it through repetition. This is called systematic
desensitization. Cold callers beat fear by pushing themselves to make cold call
after cold call. The more you confront the fear the more confident you
A best practice is to negotiate like you are having coffee at Starbucks with
a friend. Speak clearly and honestly. Be good listener and be empathetic. Try to
understand the other party’s needs. Dig deeper and try to understand the other
party’s motivations and fears.
Take a chance and share how you feel. Tell the other party what is important
you and why. Be specific. Your candor may stun them and cause them to open up
and do the same. If that happens you are on the way to a better deal.
Let the fear go.
About the Author:
John Bradley Jackson brings street-savvy sales and marketing experience from