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The Top Preparation Habit of Highly Successful Negotiators

By |February 22, 2016

negotiation preparation

I was rehearsing an anticipated negotiation in my head.  This interaction would be with someone I’ve let get under my skin. This bothers me in a double way because I’m not supposed to let this happen to me, right? I teach this stuff. I’m a hostage negotiator, right? Teaching application of hostage negotiation strategies to business. I’m not supposed to be the one getting taken hostage.

I go into my holodeck.  We’ve all got holodecks.  They’re in our heads. In the Star Trek “world” the holodeck is a virtual reality facility where you can construct any world you want. (While I am not a “Trekkie” – I do know that the future birthplace of Captain James T. Kirk is a town about 40 miles from where I grew up.)

So, as I’m simultaneously letting myself feel frustrated and trying to construct the labels and open-ended questions that will bend the dynamic the direction I want to go. I just can’t come up with any. My brain is just not kicking out any brilliance. The way I keep seeing the anticipated interaction in my holodeck has it going bad every time. I’m not keeping a good tone of voice.  I can just see myself getting frustrated.

And then I tell myself “Look man, you’re lucky to be having this conversation at all.” And bang! 3 beautiful labels immediately occur to me. Good, solid nurturing supportive labels. I completely see myself saying them with a smiling, playful tone of voice.

The top preparation habit is setting the proper mindset.

When it comes to mindset, you’ve got three choices here. It’s one of the reasons there is a saying “He (she) who cares least wins.” I’ll take that and add that your performance will increase. Significantly.

The 3 choices are:

  1. Negative – Frustration (or whatever your default mode is in the circumstance is);
  2. Dispassionate – Neutral
  3. Gratitude – Happy (the top choice).

Gratitude is the top choice because it automatically kicks our brain its highest gear. It’s easy to move back and forth from there to playful and encouraging. Shawn Achor gave a brilliant Ted talk on happiness and offered that our brains perform 31% more effectively at happiness than negative, neutral, or stressed.

31%. That is no small advantage. And it’s why as soon as I told myself I was lucky to even be in the conversation I was rehearsing, my brain immediately produced the labels I needed. And it is the truth, I was lucky then, and still am lucky to have this business relationship.

In our negative mindset, we keep imagining getting angry, the other person saying the things that punch our buttons and the conversation going south yet again. This in effect, is a rehearsal and it’s no wonder we can find ourselves hostage to repetitive patterns. When the pressure is on, you don’t rise to the occasion. You fall to your highest level of preparation.

The mental preparation move of “He/she who cares least wins” has become a popular one because at least it has shown to be helpful for pulling us out of this nosedive. With this approach, when they punch your emotional buttons you can shrug it off and not make it worse.  But you can do better.

Gratitude is the platinum move.  It also has great residual benefits. This is one of the reasons Eric Barker, in one of his many brilliant blog postings, called it the tactical nuke of happiness.

“I’m lucky to be in this negotiation at all” is a mental preparation move that gives you balance, flexibility, endurance and speed, which are the top 4 critical components of power. Gratitude gives you mental agility.

Gratitude also helps you give off a vibe that people are drawn to.  They will want to make a deal with you.

Gratitude will give you a great tone of voice. That tone of voice will reach into your counterpart’s brain and flip the “like” switch before you’ve finished your first sentence. You’ll have gained an edge before they’ve had the opportunity to actually construct a cognitive thought response to what you’ve said. People are 6x more likely to make a deal with someone they like.

Gratitude in your holodeck rehearsals will give you practice at producing the good responses that will steer the outcome favorably. Practicing gratitude will give you confidence and free your mind to work on other challenges.

Gratitude. A tactical emotional preparation nuke.

Make it rain!

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