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Learning to Love to Negotiate

By JemmaBlythe Alexander Shelton-Spurr (JB Shelton)

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The title Learning to Love to Negotiate may strike you as intriguing and ridiculous. Negotiating is complex and challenging. It requires hours, days, weeks of research, preparation and organization before the negotiation even begins.

Every negotiation is different. Although we learn from experience, we can never be absolutely certain about the next outcome. If we dislike hard work and surprise endings, hating to negotiate is more likely than loving it.

What is there, you may rightly inquire, to love about negotiating? Oh, let me count my personal ways of thinking and doing that lead me to love being a professional negotiator.

I. Everything is Under Control

When I think about loving to negotiate, my mentor’s mantra comes to mind: “Everything is under control.” I understand the phrase as a mindset, not a literal interpretation.

Every negotiation inspires me to assess my natural abilities, skills and talents. I contemplate, then plan, how to maximize control over the various aspects of my next negotiation. I consider how to effectively apply my experiences in previously successful negotiations to my new challenges.

My purpose is to renew self-confidence, synergize competencies, and turn attributes into creative, logical, powerful actions. Such actions inevitably dissipate my fears, anger and hesitancy.

II. Motivating Factor

Every essential negotiation has a primary motivating factor that inspires. In a blaze of stream-of-consciousness, describe that factor in a clarifying, summarizing sentence. Determine why you are passionate about winning. Focus on how your career, prosperity, personal life, community involvement or other areas will benefit you, your family, friends, neighbors, business colleagues.

If you cannot state why it’s essential, declare the negotiation non-essential. You cannot love wasting time and energy on something that needn’t be done: Don’t do it.

III. It’s Not Personal

I’ve discovered that being objective about myself is an excellent way to decrease stress and increase my enjoyment of negotiating. I admire, apply and therefore share these recommendations to lighten up about emotional responses. Treat the business of negotiating as a business matter. Remember not to take interactions personally.

Executive coach Brian Koslow advised, “During a negotiation, it would be wise not to take anything personally. If you leave personalities out of it, you will be able to see opportunities more objectively.”

Watergate-era politician Howard Baker, declared, “The most difficult thing in any negotiation is making sure that you strip it of the emotion and deal with the facts.”

Felix Dennis, British publisher, poet, philanthropist, stated, “You have to persuade yourself that you absolutely don’t care what happens. I promise you, in every serious negotiation, the man or woman who doesn’t care is going to win.”

IV. Approach-Avoidance Conflicts

Stress is inherent in negotiating interactions. Kurt Lewin, a founder of modern social psychology, defined approach-avoidance conflicts as stressful. When we take the approach that a negotiation holds a true and valued purpose, loving to negotiate comes to fruition.

Lewin defined avoidance as being fearful, suspicious, anticipating negatively, misdirecting mental and emotional energy. The brave soul looks inward to examine the negative (avoidance) aspects. She seeks to understand why certain thoughts are illogical and worth discarding.

V. Incentives and Research

You don’t need extrasensory perception to follow American philanthropist and entrepreneur Eli Broad’s advice: “The best move you can make in negotiation is to think of an incentive the other person hasn’t even thought of and then meet it.” I love the detective work, the creative thinking, the aha! moments on the path to discovering my opponent’s incentive.

How, indeed, do you conjure up that vital incentive? It’s a matter of knowing your opponent’s history, strengths and goals almost as well as you know your own. You will be able to feel a pleasurable, ego-satisfying measure of control when you invest creativity, time and talent in researching beyond corporate annual reports, Wall Street Journal articles, and PBS Nightly Business Report features.

I take advantage of the professional and personal revelations available on LinkedIn, the world’s largest professional network, boasting 250 million members. The profiles are compendia of careers, skills, advocations, publications, memberships and awards. I can quickly and easily see where my network contacts match those of the person I’m researching. My next step is to analyze the profile information and ask questions of our mutual contacts until that previously mysterious vital incentive emerges.

VI. Natural Negotiators

Some folks just come naturally to getting their way. Cute babies and adorable toddlers. Corporate bigwigs awarded golden parachutes and lawyers who know where the bodies are buried. Charismatic televangelists and three a.m. tv infomercial hosts.

Visualize yourself as achieving your negotiating goals with professionalism. Your demeanor, image and attitude are secure. You take pleasure, not in destroying your opponent, but in holding a negotiation that achieves your goal and provides a measure of success for him.

The more you negotiate successfully, the more you will think of yourself as blessed with the powers of being a natural negotiator. Realizing you love to negotiate is worthy of celebrating youself.

JB Shelton Photo
JemmaBlythe Alexander Shelton-Spurr (JB Shelton) is a journalist based in Raleigh and Oxford, NC. She writes about children growing up and grownups reinventing themselves. JB teaches Professional Negotiating Skills: Transforming Life’s Challenges into Win-Win Results at Duke University in Durham, NC.  Angel in Your Mirror: Musings from the Curly Mind of JB Shelton-Spurr is available on Contact her at [email protected].

Copyright © 2014 JemmaBlythe Alexander Shelton-Spurr
Copyright ©   2014  The Negotiator Magazine
The Negotiator Magazine  February 2014