Pre-Negotiation Mental Preparation


Mindfulness is defined as the capacity to be present and aware through moment-to-moment, concentrated attention. Originally developed from Eastern philosophies some 2,500 years ago, its value is now becoming better understood in Western cultures and modern businesses.

Given how our emotions fuel behaviours, it is important that we are aware of them before and during the negotiation process. For some time, understanding attention and awareness has been important for psychologists and others studying cognition. However, only more recently have researchers studied how the negotiator’s mental state and processes of attention, awareness and concentration influence the negotiation process.

Many negotiators are anxious about their performance as they enter the formal negotiation interaction. This is despite their best preparation of the negotiation subject material, in addition to preparing how they will manage the negotiation process. Indeed, many would argue that having a certain amount of ‘performance anxiousness’ is a predictor of success.

Developing Mindfulness Leads to Negotiation Success

Research demonstrates that open, non-judgemental awareness of the present moment throughout a negotiation influences negotiation success. In our consultancy programs, we regard this as important for building the capability of ongoing, conscious negotiation process observation.

Most interestingly, recent studies show that when negotiators enter a negotiation with practised mindfulness their performance is improved due to a reduction in pre-performance anxiety. Furthermore, in addition to pre-negotiation anxiety reduction, other beneficial results for negotiators include:

  • greater focus, less distraction from the task at hand
  • better control of emotional reactions
  • more awareness of biases impacting on judgement, freeing up mental resources for engaging in the negotiation
  • increased positive mood
  • reduced stress
  • proven physical health benefits (boosts immune system, lowers blood pressure)

How to do it is easy.

You don’t need to spend hours in meditation. In fact, it had been found that engaging in a simple and brief mindfulness exercise can be an effective way to improve negotiation performance. It’s a no-cost method to enhance your pre-negotiation preparation and can be undertaken in most environments.

How willing are you to give it a try?

Tips for Practicing Mindfulness (and overcoming Pre-Negotiation Anxiety)

The following mindfulness exercise may be undertaken solo or together with your negotiating team in only three minutes prior to entering the formal negotiation meeting. It requires deep focus on your mental self. For some this will be easy – for others it may require practice.

Step 1 (one minute)

  • Sit (or stand) in a relaxed position, close your eyes
  • Fully exhale your breath
  • Slowly take a deep in-breath through your nostrils to calm yourself
  • Hold your breath and focus on feeling peaceful within yourself (It may help to visualize a relaxing place – eg. a sandy beach, deep in a forest, a quiet room)
  • Fully exhale through your mouth
  • Repeat twice more

Step 2 (30 seconds)

  • Remain in your relaxed position, eyes closed
  • Breath normally
  • Focus on your calm, internal mental state
  • Stay relaxed thinking of nothing except being calm
  • Don’t allow other thoughts to interfere (very hard to do)

Step 3 (one minute)

  • Remain in your relaxed position, eyes closed
  • Take another three deep breaths
  • With each in-breath, in your mind’s eye, anticipate the detail of the negotiation space you are about to enter: who will be there, where are they placed, what’s the timing, what’s the ‘mood’
  • Visualize yourself taking effective control of the negotiation process
  • Stay relaxed

Step 4 (30 seconds)

  • Slowly ‘awaken’ from your relaxed position
  • Smile to yourself
  • Clearly bring to mind the negotiation objective you are about to achieve
  • Stay calm knowing you will be in process control

To discuss this article in more depth or to explore developing your negotiation capabilities further please contact us on +612 9299 9688.

ENS Team
ENS Team

Part of the EdventureCo Group, a Certified B Corporate

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