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Nervous to negotiate? 5 ways to overcome anxiety before your next difficult conversation

Nervous to negotiate? 5 ways to overcome anxiety before your next difficult conversation

min read

Missed opportunities to advocate for yourself come at a cost. At the ​​American Negotiation Institute, we believe if you communicate efficiently, you can be the most powerful person in a conversation.

Unfortunately, traditional education does an awful job at demonstrating how this is actually possible, so allow me to make the case.

In the last five years, I negotiated for hundreds of hours. I’ve graduated from the Yale and Harvard Negotiation programs and even negotiated head to head with the largest Fortune 500 companies in the world like Apple and Microsoft. I’ve also been fortunate to spend time with a few of the world's top negotiation thought leaders like Scott Tillema, Kwame Christian M.S. Esq., and Chris Voss. 

All that said, difficult conversations and negotiations come in different forms. I recently fell in love with my best friend, and the time came to reveal my feelings. Naturally, I was terrified!

Luckily, there are five steps I took to overcome my anxiety and tell her the truth. They'll also help you prepare for any type of difficult conversation - or the next time you fall in love.


The key to overcoming anxiety is recognizing it for what it is. Once you notice and name your emotions, move toward accepting (and even loving them). This removes the anxiety keeping you from going after what you want and deserve. 


Do your hardest tasks first. Start your morning by accomplishing the thing you want to do the least. When you show up later in the day for your difficult conversation you’ve already defied the odds. Everything comes easier after eating the frog. 


Decide what you want. Specific intentions often invite clarity. An example could be, “I want to reach an understanding on what I'm offering and what our next steps are.” It feels artsy, but in your most uncomfortable moments, our intentions guide us. 


Write down your best outcome. Neuroscience says if you write down and vividly see your goals, you are 1.4 times more likely to achieve them.


Remember you can only control your words and actions. Detach yourself from the idea that the only way to be successful is to win. Focus on improvements that you’ve made to your process, approach, and strategy, as well as the ways in which you're challenging yourself through discomfort. These are wins too.  

Trust yourself after the difficult conversation is over. If you’ve done all you can (and followed the recommendations in this post) your difficult conversation will always unravel the way it's supposed to.

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