When the stakes are high, don't let your nerves get the better of you.
Negotiating is part of our everyday lives. Whether we’re determining a new employee’s salary or trying to get our kids to eat their veggies, this skill is something we fall back on to get what we want. Just like a muscle, the more you use it, the stronger it becomes. Eventually, you’ll become a master at it. It just takes one thing: practice.
I used to dread going into negotiations with a colleague or client. I would get nervous and my voice would start to shake. It’s easy for people to get caught up in the emotion of the moment and ignore their instincts. Especially when the stakes are high and nerves get the better of you.
1. Silence is golden.
Most people tend to talk a lot when they get nervous — myself included. But when you’re busy talking, you miss a lot. Be patient when you’re in negotiations, and let the other person do most of the chatting. When you do speak, try to ask open-ended questions like, “What part of my proposal gives you concern?” This will help you better gauge what the other side is looking for.
Keep in mind that the purpose of negotiating is to find an outcome that benefits both parties. If you don’t take the time to listen to what the other side needs, your negotiation is bound to fail.
2. Swallow your fear and make the first offer.
People are usually afraid to make the first move. This is probably due to the fear of missing an opportunity or getting lowballed. I get it; you don’t want to show your hand right off the bat. The truth is, if you’ve done your research and have a good understanding of the value on both sides, making the first move can actually be quite beneficial.
By taking the lead, you get to be the one to set the parameters of the negotiation. In other words, you can manage the other person’s expectations and set the terms of the discussion. This puts you in control of the conversation, giving you the confidence to stand your ground.
3. Time is on your side.
Remember, it’s OK to take a break and walk away from the table to process what’s been said and what adjustments you need to make. Negotiating is a fine balance between need and compromise that should result in an outcome that will work for everyone involved.