Navigating through fear towards uncertainty – pushing the boundaries to get more out of any negotiation. Dealing with a high degree of uncertainty in an emotional or unfamiliar negotiation situation is inevitable. I am thinking here of situations like getting a divorce; buying something that is out of your budget; or selling your business. Your ability to tolerate and manage uncertainty is directly related to the degree of fear you will feel. The less fear you feel, the better you will be able to think, communicate and come up with creative solutions. So how do you keep your fear in check?

Research shows that feeling fear a can hinder our nervous system to functioning properly; and it limits our cognitive processing and decreases our creative problem-solving ability; which is a real problem as negotiations require a high degree of practical creativity. In other words, fear is bad for the mind, brain, and body. And it makes it really hard for you to achieve great results. Why? because in most negotiations, the other party will hardly ever accept your offer as it is nor will you accept theirs. It’s up to both parties to craft a third solution which both parties can agree on. You want to be sharp to do that.

How to think about fear and how to deal with it in negotiation.

So is negotiating things out of your comfort zone only for the fearless few among us? Well even if it was, sometimes we just don´t have the luxury of stepping away. First, we must make peace with the feeling of fear; it´s not an emotion that is negative or needs to be avoided at all costs. Feeling fear is neither abnormal nor a sign of weakness. The capacity to be afraid is part of normal brain function. In fact, a lack of fear may be a sign of serious brain damage. So there is nothing wrong with being able to experience fear. But you need to be able to transform it into a more workable emotion.

What keeps people from pushing for more in my experience with coaching clients? It is the fact that fear is an inherently unpleasant experience that can range from mild to paralyzing. No wonder, we are wired to stay away from anything that causes us to feel fear. We much prefer to do things within our comfort zone. It´s much easier to ask for a discount in a place where I´ve gotten a discount in the past; so I am not anticipating a „no“ or any other form of rejection. Asking for better conditions in a brand new situation; where we really don´t know what the outcome is going is always a little exciting.

Fears: Instinct, learned and taught.

Fear is part instinct, partly learned, partly taught. Some fears are instinctive: Pain, for example, causes fear instinctively because of its implications for survival. Other fears are learned. We learn to be afraid of certain people, places, or situations because of negative associations and past experiences. But just because you learned that girls did reject you when asked for a date in the past; it does not mean that you will never get lucky if you keep improving your approach and keep asking.

So it really crucial to unlearn things that are not beneficial to us in the first place by moving on. The same goes for negotiations. If you have asked for too little or too much in the past; you may have gotten no results or gotten covered in hard „no´s“, maybe even hurt your relationships along the way. When rejections have social implications, our brain learns really fast to avoid them. We are social animals after all; and being excluded is one of the worst things that can happen to us, at least biologically speaking.

What fear type are you? How do you react when feeling fear?

Actions motivated by fear fall into four types: freeze, fight, flight, or fright. Freeze means you stop what you are doing and focus on the fearful stimulus to decide what to do next.

Next, you choose either fight or flight. You decide whether to deal with the threat directly (say „no!“ to your customer asking for a ridiculous price reduction) or work around it (say „maybe“ and find a way out). When the fear is overwhelming, you experience fright; for example when an overwhelmingly bigger player threatens to take legal actions against you. You neither fight nor flee; in fact, you do nothing—well, you obsess about it, ruminate, complain, but you take no action. Being continuously in fright mode can lead to hopelessness and depression. It´s not a place from where you can succeed.

Learning to be comfortable with discomfort.

Needless to say, that hopelessness and depression are not helpful when you have goals to reach. There is a saying that life begins at the end of your comfort zone. While that SOUNDS fantastic, it does not really FEEL that way. And unfortunately, there is no pill you can take to make it all go away. Moving in, not away, is the way to go.

Consider the alternative you have, which is sticking with what you know, with your routine. Routines may make you feel at ease and in control. But what a constant routine really does is dull your sensitivities. Think about the times in your life when you’ve driven the same route repeatedly; after a certain number of trips, you start tuning out most of it. Have you ever had a drive home where you barely remember what happened after you got in the car? And more than that, staying at the same level of skill does not leave you with the same results in an ever-changing world.  You may find that what worked once will no longer work. And then you are really stuck.

Pushing the boundaries.

While it may not feel like it at the moment and avoiding situations with a high degree of uncertainty; a little bit of discomfort goes a long way in terms of pushing the boundaries of what you previously thought was possible to get out of any dealing with people. Even if some or all of the things you try fail. Sure, no one likes feeling uncomfortable. But it’s a big part of improving your performance, creativity, and learning in the long run. And by that, I do not only mean just facing the negotiation at hand but try out things you learned in your latest sales training; using more humor when you are naturally not that funny or trying a strategy that you previously had planned with a trusted friend or negotiation coach.

When you go out of your way to experience new things, or when you let new things happen to you; your body creates brand new neural pathways that fuel your creative spark and enhance your memory. With experience and repetition, you will be able to handle more and more complex situations with relative ease.

That’s why being uncomfortable is something you should embrace.

How to be comfortable with being uncomfortable

When you’re feeling uncomfortable about something, it can seem like there’s a drum beating inside your mind. Your heart may be racing. Your tummy may be in knots. You may want to avoid the world and watch all 4 season of your favorite new Netflix series… There’s no way to make a sound decision when you feel like this, so you need to clear the noise. And then take action.

How to move up from fear towards uncertainty: Using two simple step process.

1. Put it on paper.

All you really need to focus and minimize discomfort is to do a brain dump. Get your ideas out of your head onto paper where you can physically see them. That helps to relieve and clear your mind.

2. Embrace the fact that life itself holds uncertainty, come to terms with that.

Earlier in my life, I focused on managing uncertainty, attempting to bring certainty to the uncertain elements of my life. And make superwoman efforts to be in control of as many pieces of my life as possible. Yes, I had a reputation for being a bit controlling, I admit it. After many life lessons when this strategy did not work out, I’m more passionate about thriving in the face of uncertainty.  Focused on living in the present and enjoying every moment I’m in. And dealing with what is at hand in a focused, present and calm matter.

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