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Why Nervous Negotiators Have an Edge

Why Nervous Negotiators Have an Edge Credit: Hand shake chalkboard image via Shutterstock

You may want to think twice about playing it calm and collected in the negotiation process. New research suggests that nerves may actually help people get a good deal when negotiating.

However, the key to getting a good deal depends upon whether or not workers and business owners look forward to the negotiation process.

"It turns out that the effect depends on whether you are someone who dreads or looks forward to negotiating," said Ashley Brown of the Sloan School of Management at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "It's not inherently harmful."

To prove this, Brown and fellow researcher Jared Curhan also of the Sloan School of Management conducted two experiments examining how participants performed in negotiations. In the first experiment, participants were asked to negotiate the price of a car while walking on a treadmill. In a second experiment, the participants were asked to negotiate an employee compensation package.

Participants who looked forward to the negotiation process were more likely to be satisfied with their results even with an increased heart rate. On the other hand, participants who did not look forward to negotiations were less satisfied in their negotiations after dealing with an increased heart rate.  The researchers say this is because psychological arousal from a workout or other event can magnify the feelings people have going into the negotiation process. That means that workers and other business professionals can either have negative and positive feelings enhanced by psychological arousals.

"We speculate that this polarizing effect of physiological arousal is more widely applicable to other contexts such as public speaking, competitive sports or test performance, to name a few," Brown said.

The research will be published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.