The Importance of Maintaining Composure in a Negotiation

Composure in negotiations

Advanced Purchasing Dynamics recently published a blog on 5 Tips for More Effective Negotiations. All of the points in the article hit home, but one of the tips really resonated with me – Act, don’t react to maintain composure. Being proactive as opposed to reactive is sound advice for all aspects of life, but I believe Mike Wynn’s suggestions to stay calm, acknowledge what the other person is saying, and ask questions are critical in creating the most successful outcomes in negotiations. 

Suggestions for staying calm and having positive reactions have been around for thousands of years.  As the Greek philosopher Heraclitus shared, “To be even-minded is the greatest virtue”. Another Greek Stoic philosopher Epictetus had sound advise on reacting to a situation, suggesting “It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters”. 

Nurturing and improving negotiation and communication skills are not easy. Adding interpersonal and communication styles to the mix makes negotiations even trickier.  When our communication style is clashing with the other person’s style, it is a challenge to keep your composure! The good news (thank you, Heraclitus and Epictetus) is that how we act and react can help.   

Here are 5 tips to help maintain composure in negotiations: 
  1. Pause 
  2. Take a deep breath 
  3. Acknowledge what the other person is saying 
  4. Do not take what the other person is saying personally 
  5. Ask questions 

Keeping calm and maintaining your composure will deliver better negotiation results. Here are 5 ways maintaining your composure in a negotiation will result in better outcomes: 

1. Enhance your credibility 

Build credibility build trust

Maintaining your composure conveys confidence and professionalism. It enhances credibility and fosters trust with the person on the other side of the table. You will be perceived as someone who is reliable and trustworthy when keeping your emotions in check. This positive perception will help not only for this negotiation but also future conversations and negotiations. 

2. Communicate more clearly 

By staying composed, you will be able to articulate your points more clearly. Staying calm will also allow you to listen attentively to the other party, fostering a productive exchange of ideas and information. Getting emotional and defensive can cloud communication and hinder effective dialogue.   

3. Mitigate conflict  

Emotions can escalate quickly if the person you are negotiating with gets defensive.  Once walls go up, they can be very difficult to go back down. Being proactive and preventing the wall from going up in the first place is the best move in a negotiation.  The atmosphere will be less tense, which allows a more productive environment to work together and come to a successful agreement and outcome. 

working relationship

If you are negotiating with a key supplier and maintaining or building a positive long-term relationship is important to you, a negative negotiation can really impact your ongoing relationship in a hurtful way. Staying composed will allow you to handle the negotiation respectfully and affect the relationship in a positive manner. Maneuvering the negotiation respectfully and calmly will serve you well for a positive long-term relationship. 

5. More successful outcomes 

Losing your composure will result in exposing your weaknesses and vulnerabilities inadvertently. The person you are negotiating with now has the upper hand! They can strategically control the flow of the conversation and information being shared and strengthen their position in the negotiation.   

Don’t try to assert control and defend your positions. Don’t lose sight of your negotiation goals.   

Rather, using Britain’s Ministry of Information quote, which was made famous by George Orwell’s novel, 1984, “Keep Calm and Carry On”! 

Keep calm and negotiate

Maintaining your composure is essential for achieving the most successful outcomes in negotiations. Though not easy, it enables you to avoid conflict that is unproductive. Take a breath, maintain your composure, and your negotiation will turn into a more productive conversation.


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