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How to not crack under pressure

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Negotiation touches every part of our lives. Relationships in business and in our personal lives are negotiated. And the skills to do it effectively can often mean the difference between getting what you want or losing out. You don’t get what you deserve, you get what you negotiate!

In the first section of the book, How to be a Great Negotiator, written by property economist, investor and developer Neville Berkowitz, the characteristic traits of a great negotiator are explored in short, bite-sized nuggets of advice.

Over the next few months, we will bring you the traits needed to succeed at the art of negotiating.

(Courtesy of PersonalEmpowerment.co)

97 Pressure

Pressure is what engineers apply to stress-test a piece of equipment. It’s also what forces human beings to develop qualities of resilience, strength, and maturity. Equipment has no reasoning capacity to shift the pressure elsewhere. It simply absorbs the pressure until it can absorb no more; then it cracks or collapses. Human beings can respond to pressure in healthy and creative ways, and avoid cracking or collapsing.

Part of the pressure in a negotiation comes from the outside, from the other party, or perhaps from your boss or from the high stakes of the negotiation. Perhaps the opposing party in the negotiation is difficult, antagonistic, or has greater legal, economic, or social power than you. Perhaps they pose a threat to your well-being, economic interests, or personal goals. Perhaps your boss can fire or demote you at will. Perhaps the loss of the negotiation will be financially or personally devastating.

The external pressure is the combined energy of will, attention, intention, expectation, and strategy the other party is focusing on you. It is the sum of any and all the efforts of others to get what they want from you, or to get you to do what they want. And it is any threat of painful consequences that may result from a negotiation.

It’s all in your head…

Maintain a balance of mind and focus during negotiations.

But there is another source of pressure in a negotiation, and it comes from the inside. It is the pressure you place on yourself, consciously or unconsciously. It is the energy of fear, expectation, concern that you focus your attention on, instead of focusing on the next step in front of you, the next appropriate action, and the person or situation you are dealing with now. It is the needless pressure you place on yourself to perform that actually interferes with your performance.

These are the basic fears that, if focused on, cause pressure in a negotiation: fear of losing the negotiation; fear of losing face or prestige; fear of losing money or a deal; fear of losing your job; general fears of loss, of failure, of not getting what you want or think you need. These pressures may seem to come from the other party, your boss, your partners, your spouse etc. These people may in fact be projecting onto you their fears of what a loss or failure on your part would mean to them. But you don’t have to take that pressure on, internalise it, and use it to pressure yourself from within. Great negotiators have tools and perspectives that allow them to absorb shocks and disperse or release pressure without cracking or being crushed.

…and that’s all it is

Fear is common, especially in times of economic uncertainty. But what most fears have in common is that they haven’t happened yet, and that chances are, they won’t. In fact, statistically, most fears never do come true. Yet the pressure created by them feels real and seems to validate them.

A great negotiator has the strength, perspective, and maturity to face fears without focusing on them and being limited by them. Yes, anything is possible. People lose negotiations. They lose jobs. They lose houses and spouses. If they have good tools and healthy perspectives, they survive and go on living, changing, growing. Conversely, people also win negotiations, get better jobs, buy nicer houses, and have wonderful marriages. The place where either fear or optimism are created, where success or failure begin, where pressure is handled, is between our ears.

Most of our fears reflect some lack of self-confidence; lack of a big-picture perspective; lack of trust in the process of life; and a lack of inner tools for releasing stress, maintaining calm, and regaining equilibrium when balance is lost. These tools and perspectives for transforming pressure into power are presented in the section titled “Perspective.”

The important thing to recognise is that the fear causing the pressure is the fear of a negative possibility that hasn’t happened and may not happen. It is anxiety in advance!

Understanding that we internally create, with our thoughts and our imagination, most of the pressure we are feeling in a negotiation opens up new options. We can focus on practical actions that move us toward our goals or on possibilities that create motivation and healthy optimism. Then we can negotiate from a position of confidence and strength.

Remember that both parties in any negotiation have something at stake, something to gain or lose, and are therefore under some form of pressure. You are not the only one with a raised heartbeat!

Pressure is a fact of life. And it is always a double-edged sword. Depending on how you use it, it can work for you or against you, crush you or make you stronger. Great negotiators develop the capacity to absorb pressure, turn it into power, and use it to their advantage. A simple attitude change that says, “I love pressure, it brings out the best in me” can actualise into a proven fact, hopefully, time and again. Remember that the pressure is there because the prize is at hand. If your attitude is one of “I have nothing to lose and everything to gain” then you can use the pressure as your power to now have focused intent in crossing the negotiation finish line with the prize in your hand.


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