Katie Lane is an attorney with expertise in helping creative people protect their rights and get paid fairly. She recently did a webinar for Craft Industry Alliance about how to negotiate even if you hate conflict. Here, Katie is sharing her expert tips for preparing your body and mind before entering into a business negotiation.

My bet is that you didn’t become a craft professional because you had a burning desire to negotiate more often. I’m also going to guess that as your business has grown, you’ve had to handle a lot more negotiations.

It turns out that negotiation is one of those unexpected skills, like bookkeeping, that you didn’t plan on picking up, but discover are essential when you work for yourself. It’s not directly related to your work, but it has a big impact on how well your business does.

This can be incredibly intimidating if negotiation doesn’t come naturally for you. It didn’t come naturally to me when I first started work as an attorney. I had to learn how to negotiate, and a big part of what I learned was how to help myself when I feel uncomfortable or intimidated.

Use Your Body

Part of the reason negotiations feel so intimidating is that when you encounter stressful situations, your brain tries to protect you by telling your body you’re in danger.

But you can use your body to let your brain know everything is OK; there isn’t a panther in the room, it’s just a negotiation. Studies have shown that using open, broad body language, such as the Wonder Woman/Superman pose, makes you feel more powerful. That feeling of power can combat your initial anxiety response.

power pose before negotiating

So how can you use this trick? Before a negotiation starts, adopt a “power pose.” Stand with your feet about hip width apart and place your hands on your hips. With shoulders back and chest out, lift your chin just a bit. Research by social psychologist Amy Cuddy suggests doing this for as little as two minutes can decrease your cortisol (a hormone associated with stress) levels and increase your testosterone (a hormone associated with many things, including confidence) levels. (Check out Amy Cuddy’s book, Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges, for more great tips.)

During the negotiation, even if the other person can’t see you, be sure to maintain that boost by sitting or standing tall, with an open chest. Take up room by throwing your arm over the back of the chair next to you, or, if you’re alone, leaning back and putting your feet on the table. These open poses communicate confidence, to you and the person you’re talking with.

 Music, If You Please

It turns out there is a scientific reason why a good song can help lift you out of a funk (or a sad song can make a bad day seem so much worse). There are neurons in our brains that react to the emotional qualities of audio and visual stimuli. Dubbed “mirror neurons,” research suggests they are why you automatically smile back when someone smiles at you, or why you can pick up on another person’s emotional state.

listening to music before negotiating

While mirror neurons can do all sorts of helpful things, I like intentionally using them for the very basic purpose of feeling good before a negotiation. I have a three-song “Negotiation Playlist” that I listen to before a big phone call or meeting, or while I’m having to write a difficult email. The songs are ones that always make me feel good, and when they’re on I find it very difficult to not dance.

Listening to the playlist before a challenging conversation calms my anxious thoughts and boosts my confidence. It’s difficult to feel intimidated when my body just wants to dance around the room.

Getting comfortable with negotiation takes practice. And while it may never be your most favorite part of work, with practice and a few tricks, it can be one you handle with confidence and calm.


Katie Lane is an attorney and negotiation work who helps artists and freelancers protect their rights and get paid fairly for the work they do. You can follow her on Twitter at @_katie_lane and read her blog at www.WorkMadeForHire.net.

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