Negotiating in Life , Negotiating Tips June 20, 2010

Is fear keeping you from negotiating?

Franklin Delano Roosevelt famously said during his first inaugural address in 1933: “We have nothing to fear except fear itself. ” FDR was trying to motivate a country that was submerged in a financial depression...

Franklin Delano Roosevelt famously said during his first inaugural address in 1933: “We have nothing to fear except fear itself.” FDR was trying to motivate a country that was submerged in a financial depression. Yet, these words ring true through the years because fear is such a pervasive, negative emotion that stops many people from acting.

People involved in business negotiations may face many fears: fear of failure, fear of rejection, fear of public speaking and even fear of success. Fear creates negative emotions, and often paralyzes people. As Dr. Chester Karrass writes in his book, The Negotiating Game:

“We are all familiar with fear as an inoculator. A buyer who is threatened with dismissal unless he or she meets a target, will be oblivious to the opponent’s arguments...Fear inoculates against persuasion, but may also inoculate against decision-making of any kind.”

Fear stems both from imagined outcomes—the what-ifs—and from real threats. Some negotiators are told that unless outcome X happens, they will lose their jobs. Other negotiators are fearful of what they think may happen: looking foolish, having people dislike them, and so on.

How do you deal with fear? First, you should recognize that you are feeling fear. Then, pinpoint what the specific fear is, and last, ask yourself how realistic is the fear? Will you really look foolish? What if you fail? What is the worst that can happen?

Another way to deal with fear of failure is to reframe your perception of what a negotiation is. The old way of looking at negotiation, where one party wins and the other loses, can be intimidating. The newer, more collaborative vision of negotiation is the Both-Win negotiation approach. If you believe that both parties can succeed, there is no need to fear failure.

Finally, Susan Jeffers, PhD wrote a book dealing with the crippling effects of fear and anxiety in everyday life. Its title says it all: Feel the Fear, and Do it Anyway.

How do you deal with your own fears or your team’s fears during a negotiation?
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