In Practice

Putting social psychology to work for you

7 Negotiating Tips for Anxious or Sensitive People

Becoming more effective at negotiating is a great way to become more confident.


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Basic negotiating skills are useful for everyone.

Anxious people often don't negotiate - partly due to intolerance of uncertainty and partly due to wanting to avoid potential social disapproval. The more someone with anxiety avoids negotiating, the more anxiety provoking it becomes over time.

Becoming more effective in situations like negotiating is a great way to become more confident.

Instead of thinking "When I'm more confident, I'll be more effective at negotiating" think "When I'm more effective at negotiating, I'll be more confident."

A few basic negotiation skills can go a long way.

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1. Understand your cognitive style.

People who are anxious tend to be more pessimistic than average, and are also more hypervigilant to cues of danger.

How this can manifest in negotiations is that you may have a tendency to always believe the other person is in the power position.

If you find yourself thinking the other party is holding a better hand than you (to use a poker analogy), recognize that this may be just a thought distortion.

Balance your thoughts by reflecting on the reasons you have some power in the negotiation e.g., you have something to sell that the buyer would like to purchase and it's easier for the buyer to buy now from you rather than keep looking elsewhere.

If you're anxious, you're more likely to panic about the possibility of not being able to reach a deal than the average person.

2. A shocked look.

A common tactic buyers use in negotiations is to look visibly shocked when the seller tells them the price of the item.

When you tell someone the price of something, be aware of when the potential buyer is using acting shocked as a way to get you to drop your price. Don't panic and immediately drop your price through the floor.

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3. Check your attitude to negotiating.

Do you associate negotiating with people trying to rip you off? Do you feel irritated when people try to negotiate because you don't feel confident with it?

What other attitudes are possible? Good negotiating is about both parties coming away feeling satisfied and neither having buyer's or seller's remorse.

Some people find that treating negotiating like a sport or game helps them lighten up about it.

4. "Fairness"

Sometimes people who are anxious or sensitive have a rigid view of fairness. For example, they struggle to give an inflated price at the start of a negotiation because that price doesn't seem fair, even when the price is just intended as a starting point for the negotiation.

Keep the "anchoring bias" in mind. The anchoring bias refers to the idea that the price you start negotiations at anchors the conversation, and plays a major role in determining where you end up. For example, as a general rule, if you start your negotiation by offering a price of $300, you're likely to end up settling at a higher price than if you start your negotiations at a price of $250.

An additional tip: Try starting negotiations with a less round number e.g., if you start at $28, the other party might counter with $25, whereas if you start at $25, they're more likely to counter with $20.


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5. Make a list of concessions or extras you could offer that in reality make no difference to you.

For example, if you're negotiating a lease and the renter is asking for a 6 month term and you know you want to stay in the property for longer,  you could offer a 9 month term in exchange for a reduction in the weekly rent. The idea is to act like you're "giving to get" but where the things you're "giving" don't matter to you anyway.

6. "Door in the face" and "foot in the door."

Other common negotiating tactics include the "door in the face" technique and the "foot in the door" technique.

Foot in the door = When someone makes a small request to get a “Yes” answer, then follows up with a bigger request. People are more likely to agree to the big request when they've already said yes to the smaller request.

Door in the face = When someone makes an outlandish request first, then makes a smaller request, the initial outlandish request makes the smaller request seem more reasonable.

Being aware of these tactics allows you to know when they're being used on you, or to use them yourself if you feel ok about that.  

Also be aware of people asking you to do extra things after a deal has been fully negotiated or using bait and switch.

7. Practice negotiating in situations where you have nothing to lose.

For example, call your utility companies and ask them to reduce your bill. For example, ask them to price match a new offer from a competitor AND give you an additional loyalty discount for not switching. Practicing simply asking for something you'd like is a great way to start practicing negotiating.

Read More

Success Tips for People Who Are Anxious or Sensitive

How to succeed at entrepreneurship if you're prone to anxiety or sensitivity.

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photo credits: clouds Highways Agency TheeErin via photopin cc

Alice Boyes, Ph.D. translates principles from Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and social psychology into tips people can use in their everyday lives.

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