Would you believe that eating a single raisin or piece of chocolate can help you become a better negotiator? It is not the fact that you are eating the raisin, but instead on how you eat the raisin that can make the difference.
Many times in mediation, the other side may do something that may make you angry or upset. During those times, you are often the most vulnerable to making a bad choice or decision based upon your emotions. However, there are simple ways to control those negative emotions so that you can make better decisions.
Recently, researchers Whitney Heppner and Michael Kernis of the University of Georgia have discovered that mindfulness and being in the moment helps to inoculate you to aggressive impulses. Heppner and Kernis studied the how experiencing the moment can reduce aggressive tendencies. In their study they told subjects that they that there was going to be a vote as to whether the subjects can join a particular group. The Participants were then told that they were wholly rejected or accepted. Shortly prior to the experiment, half of the group was also told to savor a single raisin by enjoying it through all senses of taste, feel, smell, sound, etc. Later, in what the participants thought was a separate experiment, they were given an opportunity to act aggressively towards a total stranger by delivering a painful blast of noise. Among the subjects that did not eat the raisin, those that were rejected from the group chose to become very aggressive, inflicting long and painful sonic blasts without provocation. On the other hand, the subjects that ate the raisin, regardless of whether they had been embraced or rejected were serene and unwilling to inflict pain on others.
Other studies have also shown that being mindful of simple experiences such as through meditation or deep breathing can have a significant positive effect on a variety of behaviors including stress reduction, stress reaction, attitudes towards strangers, and anger.
According to Kernis, the reason that mindfulness helps reduce aggression is because “mindfulness decreases ego involvement. So people are less likely to link their self-esteem to events….” Mindfulness also helps to regulate self-behavior since it helps to prevent bruises to a person’s ego.
Applying the Research
This research can help you prepare for a negotiation. Before the negotiation, take a few moments to appreciate your breathing, savor a piece of candy or simply take a few moments to yourself. By doing so, you can then be in a better frame of mind to handle the stresses of aggressive negotiators or opponents. Moreover, as noted above, when something untoward does happen during the negotiation process, you will be less likely to take it personally or involve your ego. As such, you will less affected by emotional appeals such as outbursts of anger or sadness.
Another strategy is to take a pause from negotiations when something negative or untoward happens. Make an excuse such as you need to use the restroom or get some coffee before you respond to the other side’s tactic. Then by focusing on mindfulness, you will be better able to see the solution or response without the diversion of emotion.
Heppner, W, Kernis, M, Lakey, C, Campbell, W. K, Goldman, B, Davis, P, Cascio, E, Mindfulness as a means of reducing aggressive behavior: dispositional and situational evidence, Aggressive Behavior, V. 34, issue 5 (2008 )