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Why Negotiators Live Longer

Ed Brodow

In 1994, I coined the term negotiation consciousness to describe how successful negotiators are assertive and challenge everything. This is the most important trait for any negotiator. To my delight, the scientific community has confirmed a correlation between negotiation consciousness and longevity. What a relief — I’m going to live longer!

The San Francisco Chronicle has reported the findings of a 10-year study of centenarians — Americans who have passed their 100th birthday — run by psychologist Leonard Poon, director of the University of Georgia’s Gerontology Center.

Poon’s study began in 1988 on a National Institutes of Health grant. His objective was to explore reasons for successful aging. What he found was that "in extreme old age individuals can be assertive and forceful." Centenarians "tend to be independent," Poon said. "They also tend to be suspicious. They won’t just take one’s word on something. They tend to question what you have to tell them."

In other words, people who exhibit the number one trait of successful negotiators — negotiation consciousness — are more likely to live longer!

Challenge Your Mortality
As I explain in my book, Negotiate With Confidence, all of the successful negotiators I know proceed from the assumption that everything is negotiable. Challenge, as my book defines it, means not taking things at face value. It means thinking for yourself. You must be able to make up your own mind, as opposed to believing everything you are told. Sound familiar? It sounds like it’s right out of Poon’s study.

My assumption is that you can’t be a successful negotiator unless you are willing to challenge the validity of the opposing position. People who pay full sticker price on a new car and who believe everything they read in the newspaper or hear on CNN are not likely candidates for Negotiator of the Month. Ironically, neither are they likely candidates for longevity.

Some new age thinkers like Deepak Chopra have suggested that the aging process can be retarded by positive mental attitude. What Poon’s study suggests is that positive mental attitude, or what I call negotiation consciousness, is a mandatory prerequisite for longevity.

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July 2006