But what if you don’t have a teammate? If you don’t (or even if you do), it can be wise to be ready to ‘go to the balcony’ if you feel you’re starting to lose it; that is, excuse yourself for a legitimate reason, and regroup. Most of us can only cope with so much stress. Students often say that taking a break is one of the best things they can do.
Another thing you can do is pay attention to your feelings and make notes during or after each of your next few negotiations. What makes you calmer and more focused? Perhaps the phone helps (or hurts). Perhaps being at a meeting is a particularly challenging (or easy) setting. As you spot where you face the biggest challenge, you may be able to negotiate about where and when you’ll negotiate. In fact, top diplomats routinely do ‘pre-negotiation’ to figure out the setting etc. of the substantive talks. You can do the same.
Another thing you can do is to take in praise you receive from teammates, colleagues and friends about your negotiating. If you’re not hearing any, consider asking a teammate to give you truthful, positive feedback first. If she has other feedback to share, ask her to discuss it constructively. Indeed, a debriefing with a teammate after an intense negotiation is usually a wise idea.
But what if you find yourself coping with sharp bargaining tactics and aggressive negotiating by the other negotiator? You can use the I FORESAW IT as a ‘first aid kit’ for responding to manipulation. For example, if the other negotiator uses a technique called limited authority (“I have no authority to give you this”), you can turn to the mnemonic for advice. One response, using the letter W (“Who”) is to say, “OK, who does have authority.” Another response, using the letter O (“Options”), is to say “OK, what options do you have authority to give? How about…”).
But what if you’re so nervous in the talks that you’re losing the ability to focus? What if you feel like you’re not thinking fast enough? Relax- it’s usually not about thinking fast, but slowing down. To do that, try actively listening to what the other person is saying, and asking some simple questions.
In the talks themselves, consider spending time slowing down, and getting acquainted with the other negotiator for a while before you get into substantitive talks. Not every negotiation lends itself to rapport building, but when appropriate it may help both of you. (Keep in mind that the other negotiator is probably feeling nervous too.)
I invite my readers to send me their suggestions. I’m at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll share a sampling in a future issue.