How to Overcome Your Fear of Negotiation

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Lynn Price is the author of “Negotiate It!: How to Crush Your Fears, Develop Your Negotiation Muscle, and Gain Power in the Workplace.” She was in-house counsel for 20+ years for Telecom and the Engineering and Construction industry. She’s negotiated well over 11,000 agreements. Currently, Lynn is a trainer and consultant in negotiation. Her focus is training people to use her 3 R formula to dramatically improve their negotiating skills. Another topic that she covers in her book—and we covered in a recent episode of Negotiations Ninja—was how to overcome your fear.

Fear of negotiation: What’s holding you back?

What are some of the fears that people experience when it comes to negotiation? Lynn points out that one of the biggest things that people fear is failure. They’re afraid that they’ll get shot down for asking for what they want. Or that they’ll be embarrassed or someone will aggressively say “no.” Lynn points out that imposter syndrome tends to drive that fear: “Who am I to ask? Why would they even listen to me? Why would I even think that I could change terms in an agreement?” She emphasizes that it’s okay to make the ask.

If you don’t ask, you definitely won’t get what you want. When you employ that as a philosophy and a mindset, you realize there’s nothing to be afraid of. People might just say no. Very few times will the answer be a matter of life and death. The risk on the line is very low unless you’re in the field of hostage negotiation.

How to overcome your fear

Lynn believes that the first step to overcoming your fear is by acknowledging that you’re scared. To overcome that, you need to over-prepare. She says you need to know your subject matter so well that you won’t be shaken if someone asks you a question. Sure, you won’t know everything 100% of the time. But you’ll be confident if you feel prepared. Even if they ask a question you don’t know, you’ll tell them you can get back to them. It won’t shake you to the core.

Secondly, practice out loud. There is a huge difference between practicing in your head, reading it, writing down notes, and practicing out loud. You can quickly fumble and stumble without that practice. When Lynn trains attorneys to do contract reviews for her, she’ll give them the standard terms (here’s what we can agree to, what we can’t, and why). These new attorneys would feel confident that they had it down. Then Lynn would take away their notes and ask them questions. They knew the answers, but when they said it for the first time, they stumbled over their words. That’s why you need to practice out loud.

Lynn also recommends that you put yourself in the other person’s position. If you were in their shoes, what would you disagree with? What would you have an issue with? What would you be asking? You can anticipate what they may respond to. But you also need to engage in active listening. If you have to respond to something that you didn’t expect, you can’t allow yourself to be flustered. It will allow you time to form a counterpoint.

What else can you do? Shadow someone. If you know someone exceptionally good at negotiating, ask to sit in on their negotiations. Even if the negotiation is a trainwreck, you can pinpoint what went wrong, incorrect tactics, and what to avoid in the future. People often struggle to learn from their own mistakes.

How to pivot when you’re flustered

If you feel flustered or overwhelmed, how do you pivot? Lynn points out that experience comes into play. She’s had numerous negative experiences where she’s been flustered, and the experience is painful—but she learns from it. You change your tactics and play along. The more experience you have, the better.

To learn more about these concepts—and hear Lynn tackle her Three R’s of Negotiation—check out episode #240 of the Negotiations Ninja podcast!