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Why People Fear Negotiation and How to Overcome

- 48% of folks are always apprehensive of salary negotiation according to

- Without using a real estate agent, X places their home up for sale at a very high amount. No one stopped by to offer less. No one seemingly thought about negotiating.

- X posted their apartment for rent. Of all the applicants, no one tried to negotiate either the deposit or the monthly rent.

- I know I've been in situations where afterwards I thought...why didn't I negotiate a price, etc.? It doesn't come "naturally" to me.” - Beth

- If the negotiations are for salary, my biggest fear is the organization balking and ultimately not hiring me. Even worse is asking for a significant amount less than they were willing to offer. When you find out, and you always will, you feel taken advantage of. - Mark

-I am very uncomfortable with negotiation. It has never occurred to me to negotiate the rent on an apartment. Once I tried to negotiate my salary at a new job, but the boss seemed shocked that I asked. Apparently this employer had a rigid step system in place based on years of experience. I was worried about getting off on the wrong foot. However, later I found out that one of my colleagues, who had less experience, was able to negotiate for a higher salary. I was really disappointed to hear about this. Luckily there is a new administration in place at my school, and salary discrepancies have been corrected.


Many folks fear negotiation. This fear has a nexus with the fear of conflict and the fear of “difficult conversations.”

This is especially troublesome since some estimate that people spend 50% of their waking time, negotiating. This may not always be called negotiation. Instead, it may be called communication, conducting a meeting, or having a conversation.

Why the Fear?

There are many reasons why folks might be fearful of negotiating:

  • Not well prepared

  • Not experienced

  • Not trained or taught how to

Generally, negotiation is not taught in the public schools. Some schools are teaching life skills, communication, and conflict management which may be akin to negotiation.

Probably most families model arguing rather than negotiation.

Even the law schools did not teach negotiation until the 1980’s.

(Comment from Larry: When I was in law school in the 1970’s there were no courses on negotiation, dispute resolution or mediation. The only glance we got at negotiation was in the Trial Advocacy course where adversarial negotiation was lectured about in one module. This, of course, is astounding since 98% of legal civil cases are negotiated and 95% of criminal cases are negotiated or plea bargained.)

Other common reasons people may avoid negotiation:

  • Fear losing an opportunity.

  • Fear the other party is a better negotiator.

  • Fear of the competitive, shark-like negotiator.

  • Fear that the negotiation will become conflictual.

  • Fear that the negotiation will become an argument.

  • Fear of violating social cultural norms. Americans don’t haggle.

  • Fear of being viewed as poor, too economical.

Authors Karl Albrecht and Steve Albrecht in their book: Added Value Negotiating=The Breakthrough Method for Building Balanced Deals describe these fears as psychological barriers or emotional blocks that most humans feel even the power negotiator. They list these psychological blocks:

  • The need to be nice. The need to be nice may set the stage for settling for less than one deserves or needs.

  • The need to be accepted and approved. Some people have the need to be viewed as a team player and may give up many items of value.

  • The fear of confrontation, conflict or disharmony. There are many people who either fear or hate conflict. Many times they avoid conflict hoping it will go away.

  • Guilt about asserting self-interest. This person is worried about fairness, not asking too much or getting too many items of value.

  • The fear of being taken. This person may feel as if everyone has a hidden agenda.

  • Lack of self-confidence. Low self-esteem may set the stage for unnecessary concessions.

  • The prospect of negotiator’s remorse. If one feels unsure of one’s self, one will question whether they got to best deal, the right deal. Could they have gotten more?

  • Fear of losing face with boss or colleagues. The key here is to know yourself. Be honest. Be open. Be prepared.

  • Being intimidated by domineering people. This affects the shy and introverted person. The domineering person will use all types of tactics to control the negotiation.

The Irony: How to Negotiate Like a Child

There is a fun book entitled, How to Negotiate Like a Child-Unleash the Little Monster Within To Get Everything You Want by Bill Adler, Jr. He contends that kids are some of the best negotiators.

Often, it just seems to come naturally and then somehow we start maturing out of these skills. What we should do is to transform these childlike tactics into adult effective negotiation tactics.

Here is a sampling of the chapters:

  • Try a Wild and Scary Threat

  • Just Cry

  • Pretend You Don’t Hear or Understand What the Other Side is Saying

  • Keep Coming Back to the Same Question

  • Win Through Cuteness

  • Don’t Fear Failure

So, focusing on the Failure Chapter, Adler contends that most children do not fear failure. Kids have not fully developed their egos. They are not wondering what people will think of them. “That’s an adult fear and it’s something that holds back adults from trying things that might turn out to be good. Kids are not burdened with thoughts of their reputation.”

An effective negotiator reclaims that aspect of fearlessness or boldness. They are willing to try new things. They are willing to be persistent.

How to Overcome This Fear.

- Instead of “winging it,” do the necessary planning.

- I overcome this fear of being take advantage of by coming from a position of power where I already have a job that I like and they need to open their wallets to entice me into making the move. That being said, it really helps that I know my market value and what the typical organization is paying for my position. Mark

  • Attain a broad view of negotiation including the collaborative approach.

  • Practice-Transform each interaction into a negotiation.

  • Focus on the best possible outcome for all parties.

  • If using the term negotiation scares folks, then reframe it to just having a conversation.

Author Roger J. Volkema, in his book The Negotiation Tool Kit-How To Get Exactly What You Want in Any Business or Personal Situation, offers this advice for what he terms as “the unnatural negotiator:

  • Scout your opponent: Do the necessary research on the opponent or “the negotiating partner.” This may include how the person negotiates and communicates. Do the social media research in an attempt to discern what is important to them.

  • Develop a BATNA: It is wise to develop a Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement. Maybe the status quo is an alternative. The more best alternatives one has the more power one has during the negotiation.

  • Choose a time and location that are favorable to you. Consider the advantages and disadvantages to a variety of locations and time for all parties. Some research indicates that Tuesdays at 10:30AM may be the most productive.

  • The Medium is the message - choose your medium: Think about the media to use. Is the negotiator better at speaking or writing? Think of the advantages and disadvantages to all parties for each media.

  • Establish Limits (Authority, Financial): Before the negotiation, create a range. What is the minimum? What is the walk away? What is the ideal? During the negotiation stick to that range unless there is new information.

  • Rehearse: This becomes a large part of preparation. Although negotiations can be unpredictable, there is a logical step-by-step process to problem solving. One can walk through the steps first in one’s own shoes and then in the other person’s shoes.

  • Use an agent: People negotiate because they want or need something. Securing an agent to do the negotiation has some advantages. One, is that they are relieved of emotional baggage. Having an agent might add some legitimacy to the business or initiative.


A lot of folks either do not think about negotiation or fear it. The fear emanates from the lack of understanding that negotiation is just like communication. Without fear of humiliation or their reputation children negotiate daily. People need to transform those childlike skills into adult negotiation skills. Think of every transaction as a negotiation. Be goal oriented so you can get the best out of every transaction whether it be salary or apartment rent.


See Recommended Books under “Blogs” drop down menu. Clicking on any book will lead one to the discounted Amazon site.

Roy J. Lewicki is the author of 'Essentials of Negotiation', published 2015 under ISBN 9780077862466 and ISBN 0077862465. Publisher: McGraw Hill Higher Education

The Conflict Resolution Training Program, Leader’s Manual, ISBN: 0-7879-6077-2. Prudence Bowman Kestner and Larry Ray

5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace.

Getting Your Way Every Day.


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