By consciously putting practices in place that promote pausing, active listening and moments of laughter, broker Pam Blair writes, we can set ourselves up for a positive, more productive negotiation experience for everyone involved.
This January marks Inman’s fifth annual Agent Appreciation Month, which culminates at Inman Connect New York in a celebration of agents at the end of January. Plus, we’re rolling out the coveted Inman Power Player Awards, as well as the New York Power Brokers and MLS Innovators awards.
I was watching Shark Tank the other day and found myself tensing up as the foreboding music started and the next entrepreneur walked into “The Tank.” I noticed their posture, their facial expression and their breathing. Surely, that brave soul was readying themselves for a hard-core negotiation that could potentially change their life.
As agents and brokers, we are thrown into the “tank” multiple times throughout the day. Negotiating is at the heart of our business. Some of us are born negotiators, but it is probably safe to say that, for most of us, it is a honed skill.
How does all of this negotiating affect our health?
Studies show that for the majority of people, the idea of “negotiating” evokes anxiety. This is because we anticipate the potential of conflict during negotiations. Many of us are hardwired to avoid conflict because we perceive it as a threat to our well-being.
What if we reframed the “art of negotiating” as something that empowered us rather than disarmed us? What if it was actually good for our health?
3 negotiating skills that could improve your health
1. The pause
When I was new to the biz, I attended a company new agent training. The only thing that I remember from that three-week period is a very seasoned agent, a former attorney, who taught the contract portion of the training, saying, “The most powerful negotiating tool is silence.”
He was talking about the “power of pause.” Pausing is one of those “easier said than done” things, especially in the heat of the moment. Many people feel uncomfortable when there is silence or a pause in a conversation. Their anxiety can take over, and they try to fill the empty space. In these moments, we can lose our negotiating power as a trade to ease our discomfort.
Pausing takes discipline. It is wise to practice it regularly so that pausing becomes an ingrained habit and perhaps an unconscious response in times of stress.
Some ways to practice ‘the pause’ daily include:
- Incorporate a 5–10-minute daily meditation, yoga or prayer practice into your day. These practices train us to slow down, breathe and step away from it all.
- Schedule regular breaks throughout your day where you take your eyes off the screen and focus on more calming images like the trees outside your window or your dog at your feet.
- Move every 20-30 minutes. Set a reminder to stop and stretch, take a walk or do the stairs.
- Before sending an important email to someone or picking up the phone to return a call, walk away for a moment or take a deep breath.
2. Active listening
At my first WomanUp! conference, Leslie Appleton Young gave some sage advice that I will never forget. She said, “Are you listening, or are you waiting to talk?”
When we are in the heat of negotiations, it is normal to anticipate our next words of defense rather than to actively listen, but, unfortunately, it’s probably not the best strategy for success — or our health.
Active listening is when you not only hear what someone is saying but also attune to their thoughts and feelings. You empathize with them. It turns a conversation into an active, non-competitive, two-way interaction and can facilitate smoother negotiations.
Practicing empathy has been shown to decrease stress and be an antidote to burnout.
Because active listening requires complete focus on whom we are engaging with, it counters the culture of multi-tasking, which has been shown to be harmful to cognitive functioning and promotes well-being.
3. Moments of laughter
When we LOL in real life, it can set the tone for successful negotiations. Having a good laugh with a friend or colleague prior to entering negotiations can help you relieve anticipation anxiety and be more effective. Looking for an appropriate moment for laughter during negotiations can establish a connection and common ground as well as diffuse tension and anger.
Not only can laughter be productive in setting the tone for successful negotiations, but it is also good for our health.
Studies show that laughter stimulates your parasympathetic nervous system — the chill out part of your brain. It reduces stress, strengthens social bonds, increases oxygen in your body and even supports better heart health. Research suggests laughter can decrease stress hormones, reduce artery inflammation and increase HDL, the “good” cholesterol — all great reasons to LOL more.
They say, “How we do one thing is how we do everything.” By consciously putting practices in place that promote pausing, active listening and moments of laughter, we can set ourselves up for a positive, more productive negotiation experience for everyone involved.
Pam Blair is the broker-owner of YogaBug Real Estate in Portland, Oregon. Connect with her on Instagram or LinkedIn.