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Preparing your body & mind can calm nerves



Does Negotiating Make You Nervous? Use Body Position & These 5 Tips to Reduce Stress

I am often asked for advice from those who get really nervous before big negotiations, and I have recommended they:

1) study and get trained in the experts’ proven negotiation research as increased knowledge decreases the unknown, which often causes anxiety,

2) brainstorm and prepare a strategic plan so they have a roadmap to achieve their goals,

3) practice or role play the negotiation so they have a good idea what might be coming, and

4) psyche themselves up as their attitude changes their body language, their words, and their whole way of coming across.

Recently I have also added 5) prepare your body for the experience. What do I mean? Of course, eat right, be rested, and get ready for the sometimes gruelingly long hours associated with some negotiations.  But there’s more.

Harvard Business School Professor Amy J.C. Cuddy in a recent Harvard Negotiation newsletter described her and Columbia Professor Dana Carney’s research finding that “expansive, open postures and gestures that signal power and confidence affect people’s hormone levels in ways that help them perform better in challenging situations.”

Specifically, they found that men and women with relatively high levels of testosterone – the “dominance hormone” – and low levels of cortisol – the “stress hormone” – are more likely to take risks, seek out challenges, and thrive in particularly stressful environments. These actions, she notes, are associated with doing well in negotiations.

Importantly, you can pretty easily increase your dominance hormone and decrease your stress hormone in advance of a negotiation. How? By spending at least two minutes adopting what Cuddy and Carney call “power poses” – standing with your hands on your hips and feet apart, and/or sitting with your feet on your desk and your arms braced behind your head.  The bigger the poses the better.

Of course, do these power poses in private before the negotiation starts to orient your hormonal levels and mindset to the negotiation.

And you probably don’t want to start off the negotiation with these poses, as they might be perceived as a bit over the top body language-wise.  That’s not to say you shouldn’t send a signal of your confidence – you should.

But send this signal by sitting or standing up straight, looking your counterparts in the eye, and resting your hand on the back of a chair or another prop. Adopting these confident poses will also keep your hormones at optimal negotiation levels – and send the appropriate signal to everyone in the room.

Finally, use similar poses in preparing for any stressful situation, even if you’re at your desk and/or negotiating over the phone. Sit up straight, lift your chin, stand and stretch occasionally, use open gestures and feel your negotiation confidence rise – along with your results.

Published September 1, 2011 The Arizona Republic

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Marty Latz is the founder of Latz Negotiation, a national negotiation training and consulting company that helps individuals and organizations achieve better results with best practices based on the experts’ research. He also has two bestselling books Gain the Edge! and The Real Trump Deal: An eye-opening Look at How He Really Negotiates. He can be reached at 480.951.3222 or

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