Preparing Your Body, Mind Can Calm Nerves

Notes on Negotiation
Submitted by Marty Latz, Latz Negotiation Institute  

I am often asked for advice from those who get really nervous before big negotiations, and I have recommended they:

1. Study and get trained in the experts’ proven negotiation research as increased knowledge decreases the unknown, which often causes anxiety.

2. Brainstorm and prepare a strategic plan so they have a roadmap to achieve their goals.

3. Practice or role-play the negotiation so they have a good idea of what might be coming.

4. Psych themselves up because their attitude changes their body language, their words and their whole way of coming across.

Recently, I have also added:

5. Prepare your body for the experience. What do I mean? Of course, eat right, be rested and get ready for the sometimes gruelingly long hours associated with some negotiations.

But there’s more.

Harvard Business School professor Amy J.C. Cuddy in a recent Harvard Negotiation newsletter described her and Columbia professor Dana Carney’s research finding that “expansive, open postures and gestures that signal power and confidence affect people’s hormone levels in ways that help them perform better in challenging situations.”

Specifically, they found that men and women with relatively high levels of testosterone – the “dominance hormone” – and low levels of cortisol – the “stress hormone” – are more likely to take risks, seek out challenges and thrive in particularly stressful environments.

These actions, she said, are associated with doing well in negotiations.

Importantly, you can pretty easily increase your dominance hormone and decrease your stress hormone in advance of a negotiation. How? By spending at least two minutes adopting what Cuddy and Carney call “power poses”: standing with your hands on your hips and feet apart, and/or sitting with your feet on your desk and your arms braced behind your head. The bigger the poses, the better.

Of course, do these power poses in private before the negotiation starts to orient your hormonal levels and mind-set to the negotiation.

And you probably don’t want to start off the negotiation with these poses, as they might be perceived as a bit over-the-top body language-wise. That’s not to say you shouldn’t send a signal of your confidence – you should.

But send this signal by sitting or standing straight, looking your counterparts in the eye and resting your hand on the back of a chair or another prop.

Adopting these confident poses will also keep your hormones at optimal negotiation levels and send the appropriate signal to everyone in the room.

Finally, use similar poses in preparing for any stressful situation, even if you’re at your desk or negotiating over the phone.

Sit up straight, lift your chin, stand and stretch occasionally, use open gestures and feel your negotiation confidence rise, along with your results.

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Marty Latz is the founder of Latz Negotiation Institute, a national negotiation training and consulting company, and ExpertNegotiator, a Web-based software company that helps managers and negotiators more effectively negotiate and implement best practices based on the experts’ proven research.  He is also the author of Gain the Edge! Negotiating to Get What You Want (St. Martin’s Press 2004). He can be reached at 480-951-3222 or Latz@ExpertNegotiator.com

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