A 2015 research study confirms what many of us have suspected: anxiety about a negotiation is likely to work against you and you should work on your negotiating skills to combat this problem.
Researchers Alison Wood Brooks and Maurice E. Schweitzer of the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania have taken a first look at whether anxiety affects negotiators’ outcomes.
In three experiments, the researchers induced anxiety in some of their college student participants by having them listen to frenetic music (the theme from the movie Psycho ) or watch an anxiety-producing film clip about rock climbers. Participants in a neutral condition listened to a piece of classical music or watched a video clip of ocean fish.
Next, the participants engaged in a two-party computerized negotiation simulation involving a buyer and a seller.
In one of the experiments, anxious negotiators didn’t set lower goals than those in the neutral condition, but they did have lower expectations of success, which appeared to become a self-fulfilling prophecy: they made lower first offers, responded more quickly to offers, and achieved less overall.
In another experiment, when negotiators were repeatedly given the option to end the negotiation, anxious negotiators bowed out sooner than those in the neutral condition.
In a fourth experiment, the researchers found that when anxious negotiators were led to believe that their negotiating abilities were strong (whether or not this was actually true), they were not hampered by their anxiety.
The results suggest that negotiators can reduce potentially detrimental anxiety through confidence-boosting training, practice, and thorough preparation.
Simply acknowledging your fears about negotiation is an important first step in turning anxiety into excitement.
- Can Nervous Nelly Negotiate? How Anxiety Causes Negotiators to Make Low First Offers, Exit Early, and Earn Less Profit, by Alison Wood Brooks and Maurice E. Schweitzer.
- Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Vol. 115, 2011.
Adapted from “Confront Your Anxiety, Improve Your Results,” first published in the June 2011 issue of Negotiation.
Originally published November 2014.