Intuition seems like magic – you know something, without consciously knowing why you know it. Some refer to it as a “gut” feeling. But it’s not magic, nor is it your gut; it’s a combination of knowledge, experience and being in the “zone”. In the case of negotiating (or conflict resolution or problem-solving), knowledge comes from preparation and experience comes from, well, doing it. What about the “zone?”
Whenever I’m in what I call the “negotiating zone” helping a client negotiate, it’s because I am well prepared. You cannot expect to get into the zone without an effort; it requires just as much effort as the actual negotiation–and it is just as important. Being prepared allows you to be “in the moment” instead of having to consciously think about the meaning of what is being said (or not said).
Athletes are prime examples of intuition in action. They prepare intensely, and then they perform. Athletes don’t need to think “do I run this way or that way” or “what was the rule on that again?”, they have already prepared themselves to run this marathon and are in their “zone” – ready to take everything in stride.
You can’t just wish intuition into being. Some people tell themselves, “I’ve got this.” Yet they have done nothing to get “this”, and their seeming confidence will dissipate soon after they enter the negotiation and they will realize they have made a vital mistake. Without preparation, we have no reason to trust any intuition we think we may have. Even the most experienced master negotiator will surely leave something on the table if they are not prepared.
So, we have done our research and know the interests, the issues, the numbers, the trades, past agreements and everything about our counterpart. We are ready now, right?
Almost. Being prepared isn’t enough. Facts, knowledge, the upper hand – all useless unless you have taken the time to mentally prepare yourself. Our state of mind in the actual negotiation is as important as our preparation beforehand.
You could also liken it to the anecdote about the old man who sold his car for gas money – sure, you have plenty of money (or ammunition for the negotiation), but to what end? You have no vehicle to convey appropriately and you’ll be left in the dust.
In addition to preparing for every negotiation I, like athletes, also have a few rituals that bring me to a state of “relaxed attention” to allow me to access my intuition…besides lucky socks, and that sort of thing, we must learn how to relax on command, breathe deeply and have mindful awareness. These are not practices for the yogi on the mountaintop alone. Every master negotiator, and successful person for that matter, employees these techniques.
With practice, going into this “zone” at will becomes second nature, like Pavlov’s dogs, our heart rate slows down, we enter our creative left brain, and our muscles relax. Now, on the field or, in our case, at the table, we can relax and trust ourselves. Boom – the zone!
When we are prepared, our intuition will pick up the subconscious clues and signs that tell us when to push ahead, when to sit back and listen, when to make a counter-offer, when to look for “out of the box” solutions.
Massive preparation followed by accessing our intuition is the perfect combination! Together they enable us to consistently land a win-win negotiated outcome!