Negotiations are almost always fun, and almost never easy. (The challenge is the fun bit, right?)
Some negotiations are fast and furious sprints – from opening proposals to BAFOs (Best And Final Offers) within a few days, and a signature soon after. Others are marathons – months of meetings, drafting and bit-by-bit honing in on the most elegant deal possible for you and your counterpart.
Either way, fatigue can set in. Sometimes it’s physical fatigue (“Why is my leg twitching like that?”), emotional fatigue (“Why won’t they just say yes?” – whilst sobbing) and sometimes it’s a mental burnout (“I’ve read the same clause 4 times…what does it mean again?”)
Getting through the fatigue and getting to your best negotiation result is essential – and to help, here are three common reasons for fatigue in a negotiation, and how you can overcome.
You’re meeting with a counterpart face-to-face for a critical negotiation session. Suitcase checked, passport in hand, you’re getting on an overnight flight and your negotiations start the next morning. Skipping forward a few time zones is a doozy on the system, and you need to hit the ground running…but how?
• 2 nights before you leave on the trip, make sure you get a good night’s sleep. This is one of the best pieces of advice I ever received when it came to training for marathon distances – the night before a race (or a trip) is too full of excitement/anxiety to get much rest, so it’s 2 nights prior that we need to stock up.
• Use your transit time wisely. Avoid working on the plane (get that done at the office before taking off) and instead, rest up. Drink lots of water, limited alcohol or caffeine, and try to get as much sleep as possible. The goal is to adjust to your new timezone asap, so that when you land in the morning you’re just as fresh as those who’re getting out of their own bed.
• Save your strength for where it really matters, and hire a taxi or a car service to get you to your hotel or meeting on that first morning. Navigating a new city in a rental car or on public transit is exhausting and a waste of your mental energy. Splurge on the lift, and save your skills for navigating that negotiation.
You’re 12 hours into a negotiation session with your counterpart. There’s no cold water left, the oxygen in the room is scarce and no matter what you do, the discussions are circular and you’re getting nowhere. Driving a counterpart to fatigue is one of the oldest tricks in the book and one of the most effective – how do you regroup and refresh?
• Let them know when enough is enough. You don’t have to be rude about it, and sometimes humour can come in handy – perhaps remind them that you’re not a robot? Or that you are, and you need to go recharge? Just as you set boundaries when it comes to what you concede in a negotiation, set boundaries to protect your wellbeing.
• Change the scenery by suggesting that the team head out for a bite to eat. This has two benefits – firstly, the change of environment and the brief downtime during transit to the restaurant will give you a chance to decompress and regain perspective. Secondly, breaking bread with a counterpart is a great way to build a relationship and uncover their values - always helpful in reaching a resolution.
• Buy time, and a break, by involving a third party. The documents need to go through your legal group. The spreadsheets must be reviewed by accounting. You’re going to require a final sign off on the latest projections. Whatever the work is that needs to be done outside of the negotiation session, breaking the momentum of the fatigue-driving tactic is crucial.
You’ve been running like a little hamster on a wheel to bring this negotiation home. Your eyes are bleary from so many hours staring at the computer screen, you’re drinking coffee with an antacid chaser, and that dusty corner under your desk is starting to look like a sweet spot for a nap. You know you’ve got this deal – you know you’re close – but how can you get some pep in your step and move this negotiation over the finish line?
• Get up out of that chair and stretch those legs! Step away from the computer and take a walk outside. The fresh air will perk you up and getting that blood flowing will help brighten your mood and sharpen those brain cells. A few yoga moves can do wonders – remember: forward bends help calm you down, and backward bends help energize. A few of both can do the trick!
• You wouldn’t expect a luxury car to run on low-grade fuel…think of your body the same way. The drive-thru burger or order-in pizza may seem like a quick and comforting meal choice when you’re burning the midnight oil, but they’ll make you sluggish. Drink lots of water, balance your carbs, protein, fruits and veggies and fuel yourself to come back to the negotiation stronger.
• Switch gears and either pick up a new task or close up the current one. Even a 30minute break to exercise your brain in another way can help restore your energy levels. Keep an eye out for the point of diminishing returns in the negotiation. Does each hour you spend tweaking the work really add value? Sometimes it’s hard to accept that our work is ‘good enough’ – but making a mistake because you’re exhausted takes you even farther away from your negotiation goals. Put it to bed.