6 Ways To Prevent A Negotiation Blow Up

There’s no denying that negotiations can be tough. And the best thing you can do to lessen the tension and prevent a negotiation blow up is to be prepared…

Palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy…

No, it’s not the start of an Eminem song… (well, it is, but that’s not what we’re getting at!)

You’re preparing for a big negotiation with a group of key suppliers and you’re already anticipating a disastrous outcome.

Perhaps you already know the people you’re dealing with are difficult to work with, or you’ve heard about their reputation.

Or maybe you know your own negotiation skills leave a lot to be desired when it comes to crisis management.

Whatever the reason, there’s no denying that negotiations can be tough. And the best thing you can do to lessen the tension and prevent a negotiation blow up is to be prepared.

We joined a recent Negotiation Roundtable organized by CABL (Conti Advanced Business Learning), a firm that specialises in Negotiation & Influencing, on the topic of Emotions and Negotiation. We wanted to hear advice from a number of procurement and sales leaders on how to keep your negotiations sweet.

Giuseppe Conti, the founder of CABL, led the conversation by discussing how emotions can influence decision making during negotiations and the ways to increase effectiveness when this factor is taken into account.

  1. Practice mindfulness

If you enter into your negotiation like a coiled spring, chances are the spring won’t stay coiled for long. The calmer you are the calmer you’re likely to remain for the duration of the meeting.

Olga Guerous, VP Commercial – Mars,  recalled a confrontation she experienced early on in her career. A particularly difficult supplier, who’s emotions were “all over the place” became so angry that he was forced to “leave the room midway through a negotiation and remained in the corridor for fifteen minutes in order to calm down.

“He came back and apologised but the situation wasn’t redeemable and he didn’t get what he wanted. Losing his temper made him lose any power and control he had in the negotiation. Having full control of your emotions is a key benefit in negotiations.”

Paul André, Director Reduced Risk Commercial Supply – JTI agreed, recommending, low breathing and mindfulness to help create a barrier to your emotions.

  1. Practice what you’re going to say

If you’re nervous or apprehensive about an impending negotiation, there’s nothing wrong with rehearsing in advance, to ensure you come across as intended.

Regina Roos, VP &  Sales Segment Leader Mineral and Mining – Schneider Electric,  said: “In the morning in front of the mirror I smile and practice some conversations, particularly ones that help you respond to people that are angry.

“When you are talking you can’t see yourself.  When you look in the mirror you can practice your facial expressions so it is not ironic or sarcastic. I call it ‘the mascara moment’.”

Francesco Lucchetta, Director EMEAI Supply – Pentair, agreed asserting the ” importance of making people aware of emotions without showing them, making an effort to keep the exchange respectful and controlled”

  1. Be physically prepared

Regina Roos recalled working with a procurement leader who took a very unique approach to managing his negotiations. At the beginning of every meeting and regularly throughout he would direct participants to the bathrooms.

“The need to take a break, to go to the toilet can create problems and impact on emotions during a negotiation. It’s good to take a minute, recharge your batteries and re-enter the discussion with a fresh perspective.”

Olga Guerous agreed in the importance of taking regular breaks throughout the negotiation process, even if it’s simply a break in the current conversation.  “It’s a powerful technique, when emotions are running high, to completely deviate from that topic, particularly if you believe you are going to have minimal success. Switch to a less contentious discussion and return to the difficult point later, whether it’s in a few minutes or a few hours.”

  1. Prepare to be confident

Preparation before a negotiation is crucial to help regulate emotions because it gives you the confidence to calmly assert your position and communicate your key points.

Ifti Ahmed, Managing Partner – Titanium Partners, argued that the most important way to control emotions is through self-confidence. “Confidence comes from preparation. If you’re prepared – you’re confident. If you think you’re going to win – you’re confident. If you think you’re going to lose – that’s when the emotions come into it.

If it helps you, don’t be ashamed of preparing everything you have to say in writing and sticking to that script.

  1. Plan your stand-up routine

There’s nothing like a touch of light humour to diffuse an escalating argument. Alessandra Silvano, Global Category Director CAPEX & MRO – Carlsberg, explained that his favourite way to blow out tension during negotiations is to crack a joke.

“Of course it has to be tactful, considered and culturally appropriate but it can be a useful and powerful way to break the tension.  Be sure you are not offending anyone and perhaps keep it exclusively to jokes about yourself!”

  1. Pick your venue wisely

Location-choice can make or break the success of your negotiation. If you want to ensure all participants remain civil, calm and professional there’s nothing like a neutral or public space to guarantee best behaviour.

“I’m a very emotional person and I find it difficult to process,” said Alessandra. “The venue of the negotiation has a big impact for me. I try to pick a relaxing, informal setting, such as a dinner. In an office environment it’s easy to get angry. In a nice restaurant I’m more relaxed and it’s easier to joke around and control emotions.”