Wharton Professor Maurice Schweitzer and graduate student Alison Wood Brooks have published an interesting paper titled, "Can Nervous Nelly Negotiate? How Anxiety Causes Negotiators to Make Low First Offers, Exit Early, and Earn Less Profit." The scholars examine the effects of anxiety on business negotiations. Not surprisingly, they find that anxiety can be very harmful in a negotiation. The study goes one step further though. It shows precisely how anxiety harms negotiators. Specifically, the researchers found that more anxious negotiators made lower initial offers, and they responded to others' offers more quickly. Those behaviors contributed to the fact that anxious negotiators ultimately achieved worse outcomes.
Why do anxious negotiators behave in this manner? Schweitzer and Brooks explain that anxiety seems to induce conflict avoidance. Anxiety often brings with it a desire to minimize the likelihood of confrontation with the other party. However, the desire to avoid confrontation often drives a negotiator to compromise prematurely or advocate for their own interests less forcefully. The lesson is clear: If you are feeling anxious, step back for a moment and collect yourself before beginning a negotiation. Your anxiety may not just make you feel sick to your stomach; it may lighten your wallet too!