Tips for Staying Calm and Focused During a Negotiation

Negotiations can get tense, especially when the stakes are high. Every negotiation can test your patience and your resilience to stay calm. That’s because negotiations often involve intense discussions and difficult conversations, and if you get caught up in your personal needs and goals, it’s easy to get emotional. So, how can you remain calm and focused when things heat up? Consider the following tips for staying poised even during the most stressful negotiations. 

Talk Less, Listen More

While you may have a clear idea of what you hope you to gain from the negotiation, your focus needs to be on more than yourself. Active listening is one of the best ways to have a positive impact on future negotiations. Skillful listening is a great way to calm tensions, resolve conflict, and gather valuable information that will lead to successful deals. 

Build Rapport

When you sit down at the table, don’t just get right into the details of the deal. Instead, connect with the person to create a sense of emotional security. Make small talk and find common ground. Perhaps you share a hobby or interest, you cheer for the same sports team, you grew up in the same neighborhood, or you might know a few of the same people. Look for common ground and spend a few minutes getting to know each other. This will set the tone for a friendlier conversation and when you have a rapport with each other, you’re less likely to get defensive. 

Ignore Threats and Express Empathy

If for some reason the other party begins making implicit threats during the conversation, do not react negatively. Instead, listen intently because they are probably speaking out of fear. Rather than get defensive, empathize with them by saying something like, “You must really be feeling a lot of pressure right now.” By showing empathy, you avoid tension and you give them a reason to de-escalate their demands. 

Take Breaks if Needed

There may be times when you simply need to step away and “take 5.” After discussing for a length of time, your brain might need some rest. Suggest a short break to cool things off and take the time to leave the room, get some fresh air, and gather your thoughts. 

End on a Positive Note

Even if things got heated, remember to always circle back to the progress that was made. Summarize what you agreed on, thank them for their time, and end with a little small talk. Remember you might need to interact with them again in the future and ending things positively will set the tone for future negotiations.