How To Negotiate Without Losing Your Shit

The earlier you learn how to negotiate without losing your shit, the better for your career. In fact, I genuinely believe that this is a skill they should teach in school as we all have to negotiate something at some point in our life.   

Even though I went to a very good business law school, I had to learn this on the job. 16 years of negotiation experience later, I feel like it is time to share with you what I wish I had been taught in school.

This article is specific to contract negotiation, but you can easily transfer this skillset to other areas of life such as negotiating a salary increase or the price of the house you have your eyes on.   

Why people lose their shit during negotiations

The main reasons are:

  • Lack of confidence
  • Not being prepared
  • Not wanting to lose face
  • Taking things personally

The best way to ensure that you won’t lose your shit is by being fully prepared technically and emotionally.

So without further ado, here are my best tips on how to negotiate without losing your shit.  

Before the negotiation

Technical prep

  • Know your stuff: do not enter the negotiation arena, whether it is a face-to-face meeting or a call, without a deep knowledge of the contract and the wider business context
  • Have a strategy ready:
    • What are your must-have and nice-have?
    • What can you trade for your must-have?
    • What is your outcome?
  • Know your mandate: what are you allowed to give away and what do you need approval for?
  • Teamwork:
    • Have a prep call with the team before the negotiation to ensure you are on the same page so you can appear united. Disagreement should be dealt with amongst yourselves, not in front of the other party.
    • Agree in advance who will cover what. Someone should be leading for your team.  

Emotional prep

All the prep you have done should be giving you confidence. If you are prepared, you know what you are doing and that is the best you can do.

To ensure I don’t bring any emotions unrelated to the call/room, I like to do a 5 minute breathing exercise just before the meeting/call to ensure I am calm, centred and bring a positive attitude to the table.

If you are new to negotiation, or are a little scared of them, and need a confidence boost, listen to positive affirmations. I love these affirmations from Louise Hay:

During the negotiation or how to negotiate effectively

  • Listen – what is the objective of the other party? Once you understand what they want, you can find a solution that work for both parties.
  • Be solution oriented – remember your only job is to find a position that works for both sides. This is the only reason you are here for.    
  • Leave your ego at the door – this is not about you or who is right. This is about finding an ageable position.
  • Take detailed notes so you have a record of what was said – this will be needed to review the next draft.
  • Where possible, draft as you go along – this will speed up the process of getting to an agreement.   
  • Agree next steps and be clear on follow-up actions and who does what.  
If you are enjoying this article, you might enjoy this one too:  Inner Child: Your Inner Child Can Heal You By Oliver JR Cooper

Now for the not-loosing-your-shit-part

  • Don’t take things personally. This is never about you, it’s about getting the deal done.
  • Remember you are talking to people your company is trying to build a relationship with. You want to end the negotiation in the best terms possible.
  • Use the mute button – this will help you to not interrupt others. If you have someone emotional on the other side, mute yourself, let them talk as much as they need to. When you are 100% sure they are done, unmute yourself and reply calmly to their arguments in a logical way. No need to rise to their level.  

I have learned this the hard way. To read the story of how I went from screaming down the phone to not being phased out by insults in negotiations, read my article Managing Conflict In The Workplace.

After the negotiation

Regroup with the team to work on the next steps.

If you have managed to stay calm the entire time, pat yourself o the back. This is a great achievement! If you haven’t, have a little think about what behaviour from the other side triggered you. This could be something you need to work on yourself.

How to negotiate without losing your shit – key take-aways

  1. Be fully prepared technically and emotionally
  2. Listen
  3. Stay focused on finding a win-win solution
  4. Don’t take anything personally, it’s never about you
  5. Use the mute button effectively

Try these simple steps and let me know how you get on

What are your tricks to stay calm in a negotiation? What works well for you? I’d love to hear your stories. Let me know in the comments.

Further resources

More on negotiation: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change by Stephen R. Covey

This article is part of the series Happier At Work, which you can find here.

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