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You are meeting with a client later this afternoon and your primary goal is to lock in the close to the deal before you get derailed. Your emotional reactions to comments made by the client in previous meetings caused you to lose focus and go off track. No matter what you tried you were unable to get back on track for the rest of the meeting. You are wondering what happened and why you impulsively gave away so many concessions. You felt your emotions ricocheting all over the place. Not a good feeling or way to engage a negotiation.

Today you are going to do something different because you know that doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is a sign of insanity. You really want to close this deal because this success will cascade into other successes and you feel sure it will be the beginning of better things to come. But what can you do that will result in different more rewarding results? How can you be less impulsive in the moment and maintain your cool?

Will your impulsivity lead you to take the one marshmallow now rather than wait for the two marshmallows later? I am referring to the well-known marshmallow test conducted by psychologist Walter Mischel. In a Stanford study he gave children the choice of having one marshmallow now or waiting and having two marshmallows later. Many think this experiment is about motivation and impulse control, but recently Mischel disclosed it is really about executive function, which is managing yourself and your resources to reach a goal. This requires mental control and self regulation, which can be increased the more you understand how your brain works.

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The advancements in neuroscience today make that possible. In addition to understanding how your brain works, there are tactics you can use in a negotiation that will make maintaining your cool and self control more available to you in the moment. This will result in you having better management over yourself and your resources, too. Three executive function characteristics that are most relevant to negotiation performance are: inhibition, shift, and self-monitoring.

Balancing Inhibition and Impulsivity

Inhibition is the opposite of impulsivity. As a social being you behave in ways that get others to accept you. In a negotiation, this may play out by you wanting to impulsively give away concessions you think may be helpful. This is especially tricky if you are a woman because you have been socialized to want to be liked. The goal is to self-regulate for a balance between the two.

Slow down the exchange in the negotiation, take a break and refer back to your prepared goals to get yourself back on track.

Shifting for More Agility

This calls for flexibility in thought and process so you can keep yourself grounded and on track. The opposite would be lack of responsiveness to helpful clues because you do not recognize them as they differ from what you anticipated.

Thorough preparation and thinking through possible scenarios will help you be more agile in the moment because you will have foreseen some of these detours and expanded your scope of what to look for in the interaction.

Self-monitoring to Know How You’re Doing

You will know how you are performing if you know what to notice. In your preparation identify markers along the way that that will tell you that you are on track.

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At certain points in the negotiation imagine yourself on a balcony looking down getting a meta-perspective of what you are doing and how you are interacting. Look to see how you are progressing in meeting your markers. Adjust your conversation as necessary. And remember to come back down off the balcony and continuing engaging!

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