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TAKING THE FEAR OUT OF NEGOTIATING

So, I just finished watching the remake of Stephen King’s “It,” a spine-chilling recounting of a murderous, supernatural clown-thing that inhabits the sewers of a small town in Maine, and apparently goes on a killing spree every 27 years.

Cue yet another clown–phobic generation!

Clowns didn’t used to be scary. We had Clarabelle (from “The Howdy Doody Show”), Ronald McDonald,

The definition of a phobia is “an irrational fear.” Fear of spiders, snakes, heights, enclosed spaces, darkness, germs, even public speaking – all more common than people think. In fact, in a number of surveys, most people report they fear public speaking more than they do death!

When I was four years old, while picking raspberries in a field behind my house, I got a bee sting right near my eye. I had no idea what this blinding pain was, and so I ran toward home. In doing so, I tripped over a strand of barbed wire that was on the ground and cut my foot. Screaming hysterically because of the bee sting and profusely bleeding from the cut on my foot, I made my way to the house. My mom and dad cleaned me up and comforted me; I specifically remember my dad telling me that bees die after they sting someone (and my reaction was, “Good!”). But for years, well into adulthood, I suffered from apiphobia – the fear of bees.

It was debilitating – if a bee came anywhere near me, I turned into a ninja master – chopping, swatting, hitting, punching (and always missing). It wasn’t until I was in my 30’s that things changed. I was visiting a science museum that had an exhibition of bees. Thousands of buzzing little buggers inside this plastic hive, and I was terrified to even go near it. There was a sign on the side that invited guests to place their hand on the plastic away from the mass of bees, and then move it to where they were (to feel the vibration, and especially the warmth of their bodies). It took every ounce of internal strength for me to do it, but I did.

And that was the turning point. From that moment on, I no longer had an irrational terror of bees. I don’t seek them out, mind you, but if one shows up at a picnic, I no longer scream like a little kid and freak out. I just deal with it. I learned first hand the power of dealing with your fears by facing them head-on.

Negotiation is a lot like that. Because of a bad bargaining experience (perhaps more than one), negotiating is now your phobia. You don’t like it; you don’t want to do it; thank you very much. But a lot of the time, fears from negotiating also stem from not understanding what’s going on. When you realize that while negotiation is a skill, it’s also a game – a great deal of the irrational fear is removed. Understanding the tactics, strategies, principles, and countermeasures all help in alleviating the dread that seems to go hand-in-hand in many negotiation encounters.

Having said all that, it’s still going to be a warm, sunny day in the middle of winter in Maine before I visit any of their sewers.