The pit in your stomach . . . constant worrying . . . lack of sleep, trouble concentrating, procrastinating, and/or needing unusual amounts of reassurance. These are all signs of anxiety — and anxiety is something that nearly 1 in 4 people report feeling when they know they have to negotiate. My suspicion is that most people don’t recognize anxiety when they feel it and that negotiation anxiety is a bigger issue than people think, particularly when 51% of them report a lack of confidence in their negotiation skills.
Scotwork is like the ER of dealmaking. When people call us, looking for negotiation help, it’s usually when something has already gone wrong or there’s anxiety about an upcoming deal. When a deal has gone wrong, it’s usually due to a lack of preparation or a complete underestimation of the situation. But when someone has anxiety about an upcoming negotiation, it’s usually brought on by worry of the unknown.
When we ask people what makes them uncomfortable about negotiating, they tend to cite things that fall into three distinct categories: the other side, information, and performance.
The other side. This anxiety is usually about dealing with an aggressive personality and wondering how to combat their combativeness. It can also be due to the perception that the other person is smarter or more experienced. Ultimately, it’s a feeling of being outmatched and unsure how the other side will show up.
Information. When people feel that they don’t know everything they should know before negotiating, this can generate anxiety. It can create a sense that there’s something lurking out there that will derail their entire negotiation. If knowledge is power, then not having knowledge can make them feel powerless.
Performance. This is the general sense of “will I succeed?” The expectations we have of ourselves, our teams, and others can drive that feeling of anxiety. It can be even worse when you feel the expectations of others.
These sources of discomfort are real. When we consult with clients on their deals, all of the above needs to be addressed in order to help them gain confidence and reduce negotiation anxiety. Here are some things that you can do on your own to help reduce negotiation anxiety.
- Have a team. Bring together a team that you can collaborate with throughout the negotiation process. You do not have to do this alone! Your team can help bring perspective, debunk fears, and even help do the work. While you might be brilliant and eminently capable, a team will make you even stronger and more effective.
- Do your homework. The more prepared you are, the better you’ll feel. Get out there and do your research — understanding the issues, looking at past deals, exploring your options, and gaining stakeholder feedback. All of this will help fill that “lack of information” void.
- Rehearse. Seriously, rehearse. Every professional musician, athlete, actor, dancer, and speaker rehearses before they perform. Do the same! Bring your team together to practice your opening statement, answering tough questions, asking questions, etc. Practice your negotiation in a safe spot before you take it live. This will build your confidence and proficiency.
The more you do the above, the less anxious you’ll feel about your negotiations. More importantly, the less anxious you feel, the better the decisions you can make and the better you’ll perform at the negotiating table.
We Can Help Reduce Your Negotiation Anxiety.
Anxiety about an upcoming negotiation is usually brought on by worry of the unknown — feelings of being outmatched and unsure how the other side will show up, a nagging sense that we don’t know everything we should know before entering a negotiation, and having high expectations of ourselves, our teams, and others. Unfortunately, anxiety can lead to bad decisions, poor performance, and disastrous outcomes. We can help! Drawing on 45 years of real-world negotiating experience, we’ll assist you with getting better deals, saving time, and creating value for all involved — not to mention preserving and even strengthening relationships. Let us partner you with one of our advisers, ensuring that you’ve got the broadest view of your deal.