Mediations and negotiations can make lawyers and parties stressed and full of anxiety. In the March 2014 issue of Negotiation Briefings, Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School, Alison Wood Brooks, Professor at Harvard Business School, gives four strategies that you and your clients can use to help manage negotiation anxiety and achieve better outcomes. My personal suggestions are inserted in italics.
- Reframe anxiety as excitement. Many people believe the best way to cope with anxiety is to simply calm down, but that’s easier said than done. Physiological arousal, a racing heart and sweaty palms, is automatic and hard to suppress. A better strategy is to reframe the high arousal associated with anxiety as excitement. Rather than saying, “I am anxious or stressed about the pending mediation”, say, “I am excited about the mediation.” This subtle reframing tactic increases authentic feelings of excitement, which improves performance on high-pressure tasks.I suggest turning those butterflies in your stomach into fighter jets flying in formation protecting you and working in a positive way in your behalf. You turn a negative into a positive by turning the upcoming mediation from stress and anxiety to an exciting opportunity to settle the case.
- Focus on opportunities. Lawyers and parties often focus on the potential threats and negative outcomes of a negotiation, thinking about all the ways it might fail. This mind-set causes them to feel anxious, which makes failure more likely. Focus on the opportunities of the mediation, reflecting on all the ways you can succeed, and you will develop options/ideas and make decisions that increase the chances of a good outcome.
- Prepare. Feeling anxious before or during a negotiation harms performance. Preparing thoroughly in advance of a negotiation reduces stress, provides clearer thinking and a better settlement. I call it TTTP, Timely, Thorough, Thoughtful Preparation. Remember what the renowned UCLA basketball coach, John Wooden said: “Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.”
- Build your confidence through practice. Research by negotiation experts has found that anxiety temporarily lowers confidence in one’s negotiating ability. If you practice negotiating, your confidence will improve and you will be less susceptible to anxiety. This is simply common sense. Whether preparing for an athletic event, a trial or mediation, the more you prepare and practice, you have less stress and a better result.
MY HEALTH: Maybe due to my new headshot, some of you have asked about my health. My health is excellent, with a high energy level. I have very good availability for mediations. I will travel to your office to mediate. You can go to my website, www.gregoryfamilylaw.com and click on the mediation calendar tab on the upper right of the home page to check on specific dates.
Thanks for your consideration, Mike