Reducing Negotiation Stress

By PON Staffon / Negotiation Skills

Adapted from “Poise under Pressure: The Well-Balanced Negotiator,” by Michael Wheeler (professor, Harvard Business School), first published in the Negotiation newsletter, December 2006.

Too many people overlook the fact that negotiation is a demanding physical act. They cram for negotiations, pulling all-nighters in an attempt to master each and every detail—only to become irritable and fuzzy headed at the bargaining table from lack of sleep and jangled nerves.

Marcus, a successful entrepreneur, almost made that mistake earlier this year as he prepared for a critical meeting with a powerful European aristocrat seeking to buy his business. Although he was in a strong negotiating position himself, Marcus felt intimidated by the prospect of meeting with someone known to be a temperamental bully on his opulent home turf.

Marcus had planned to fly overnight for a 9 a.m. meeting in Europe, his usual practice. But as the high-stakes negotiation approached, he realized that being jet-lagged made no sense. Instead, he booked a flight for a day earlier, caught up on his rest, and prepared using a technique familiar to athletes: visualization. Relying on accounts of the over-the-top setting, he imagined being whisked in a limo to his counterpart’s castle. In his mind’s eye, he saw himself being driven up the private road, past vast lawns with scores of Arabian horses. He even pictured himself being led through the imposing gallery of original Renaissance art.

By acclimating himself in advance to the surroundings, Marcus ensured that he was serenely balanced during the actual meeting. Self-composure helped him win an excellent sales agreement.