If the other party in a negotiation is fearful, you might have an advantage over them, but the likely outcome is a lopsided deal. You might get what you want, but you will never do business with that person or firm again. Overly aggressive negotiators prey on this type of opponent and delight in carving them to pieces, but at what cost? If you are left cut to ribbons by someone like this, what will you say to others about the experience? What is your reputation worth?

Fear, if not dealt with properly, could stall or disable the negotiation. It could escalate into anger or other emotions which could be so disruptive that the meeting cannot continue. If that is the case, it is probably in your best interest to help the other party minimize their fear.

Here is what I suggest.  Look for the fear in the other party. Symptoms could be nervous laughter, sweating, awkward hand movements, lack of eye contact, and detachment (like they are pretending they are somewhere else). Gently acknowledge their fear by asking if they are OK. Say something like, “Is this hard for you?”  Or, “Is this as hard for you as it is for me?” If all else fails, propose to tackle the meeting another day.

More often that not, a little empathy from you will help the other party settle down and negotiate a better deal with you. Odds are that you will also pave the way for future business.

John Bradley Jackson

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