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Before You Negotiate Anything 1024 576 Lisa

Before You Negotiate Anything

This year has been about negotiations. We are negotiating contracts, mortgages, rent reductions, haircuts, and even how we dine at restaurants just name a few. We see states negotiating for ventilators, congress negotiating stimulus packages and countries negotiating travel bans. You, likely, have already had to negotiate something this year or are about to. The types of negotiation you are making can have a huge impact on you and your family’s wellbeing. Now is not the time to be off your game.

For the high stakes negotiations, here are my top three “must haves” before sitting at the table.


Research whatever it is you are negotiating and research who you are negotiating with. By looking at who the other person is you can likely gather what they want, both personally and professionally from the conversation. This knowledge will help you prepare your strategy. Do not judge them or make assumptions. This is different from understanding them. The key is to understand what they want and why they want it. In addition to researching you can also ask advice from someone you trust who has negotiated with the adversary before or has made a similar negotiation and won.


Be crystal clear regarding what you want and what you are willing to settle for. This clarity is especially helpful when negotiating a raise or contract. You may want a $20k raise but you could settle for $10k and more vacation time. Whatever your numbers are, do not show you are willing to take less than you are asking until the end of the negotiation. Force them to talk you down even though you know you’ll agree. This strategy is important. Let the other person feel they have done a great job negotiating. Not only will they enjoy the conversation, they will respect you for holding out and likely feel they owe you.

Emotional Strength:

You have nothing to lose. Adopt this attitude. Be willing to walk away.  If you are not getting anywhere or the other party thinks they have more negotiating power – walk. Never show any emotional attachment. If you allow the other person see that you are emotionally attached to the outcome, you lose your power. Suddenly they will be in control of the conversation and therefore in control of the outcomes. Show a willingness to walk away and no emotional attachment. A neutral, I-have-nothing-to-lose attitude will surprise and throw off your opponent, thus comfortably handing you control of the conversation.

In the end, remember a negotiation is simply a process aimed at reaching an agreement between two parties. You want to be armed with as much information as possible, be clear on what you do and don’t want, and operate from a place of strength.

Navigating Difficult Conversations 275 183 Lisa

Navigating Difficult Conversations

Navigating Difficult Conversations

Whether it’s a professional or personal conversation, one of this year’s biggest challenges has been navigating difficult conversations. For some of us living in homes with people who have opposing viewpoints, it’s become part of daily life.

Unlike ordinary conversations, difficult conversations are much more likely to hijack our internal sense of peace and create feelings of panic or anger. While these intense emotions take hold, we fall into the trap of building a wall when we are hoping to build a bridge. We may even find that our conversation has become unproductive or explosive in just a few minutes.

So what can we do to ensure our sense of calm doesn’t get hijacked and we stay in bridge building mode?

Think through what matters most to you in the conversation. Set intentions and achievable goals. Some important goals could be to keep the conversation pleasant, find common ground, listen and acknowledge the other person’s viewpoint. These are all things you can control. Setting intentions or goals that are outside of your control will likely lead to panic if the conversation doesn’t go well. Acknowledging how your body responds to fear or anger can help you stay calm. Perhaps when things get challenging your heart races, back stiffens, you find breathing more difficult and so on. Prepare physically by doing some slow deep breathing. Keep your eyes open and imagine the breath is going into your belly and back. Shake your hands vigorously to release excess tension.

Emotion in the Conversation
You must stay in your own emotional state without taking on the other person’s. If the other person becomes angry or emotional, stay neutral. If you need to defuse the situation, say less and listen more. The more neutral you are, the more likely your friend or colleague will come down from being carried away by emotion.

Know When to End
This one can be especially tricky if you don’t know the person well. You may be surprised to find they are triggered easily, and the conversation has gone down a rabbit hole quick. Try ending it by asking a question. “Perhaps, we should take a break and reconvene tomorrow?” This will buy you time to rethink your strategy based on their response.

What to avoid
Do not use condescending tones or language. That is a surefire way to increase tension and put your partner on the defense. Stay on topic and do not let your partner change the subject. If they resist staying on topic you may need to end the conversation. You’ll also need to avoid letting your ego take over. The desire to “win” or control the outcome may be human but not productive.

Final Thoughts
With all conversations where risk is involved, knowing how to handle yourself when a conversation gets heated is key. Mental and physical preparation helps ground you in your intentions, increases your control over your physiological responses, and sets a foundation for staying engaged in a way that aligns with your intentions. Once you are deep in the conversation, stay on topic, listen and keep breathing. Remember, you cannot control another person’s responses, only your own.

Lisa Wentz 7/29/20

Voice & Speech Training Is Crucial for Successful Meetings During Quarantine 609 800 Lisa

Voice & Speech Training Is Crucial for Successful Meetings During Quarantine

Voice & Speech Training for Successful Meetings During Quarantine

First, let’s start by defining what voice and speech training is. Voice and speech training was originally developed for stage actors to achieve the following:
to reduce mental and physical tension which interferes with breathing and speaking while performing; to help actors develop a strong, grounded voice and presence on stage; and finally, to develop stamina of articulatory muscles (lips, tongue, and jaw) for clarity. The need for this training may perhaps seem obvious from the point-of-view of a cast of actors performing Hamlet eight shows a week.

What doesn’t seem obvious is that the same training is essential for business professionals in meetings for several hours a day and anyone in a leadership position. Here’s why . . .

Breathing: Reduce tension and focus your mind

The fastest and most effective way to shed excess tension and focus your thoughts on delivery is to warm up with breathing exercises. I recommend using long deep breaths. Breathe in through your nose and out through the mouth. When you breathe out, make the sound of a long, sustained S. Six to eight slow deep breaths 30 minutes before your speech is ideal. While in your meeting, continue to breathe deeply between thoughts and during pauses.

Try to remember excess tension is nothing more than wasted energy. The energy you could be using to articulate your message or persuade and inspire your team is not easily accessed when experiencing mental and physical tension. In voice and speech training, we start with the understanding that humans function as a whole and can only fundamentally change as a whole. In other words, the mental tension and physical tension co-exist together and must be addressed simultaneously. By reducing tension and learning to economize our energy output we can create a stronger presence.

Resonance: Developing your voice

Who doesn’t want to speak with optimum resonance? A fully resonant voice not only projects confidence, it’s easier for your audience to listen to. Being in several meetings a day gets tiring. Particularly if you are in virtual meetings. Think of how you feel when you listen to a stressed or worn out voice. Likely, it causes you to feel tired or stressed yourself. The answer to this problem is two-fold: we must learn to breathe to support our vocal stamina and speak slowly with more pauses.

Articulation: Speaking clearly to be heard and understood

At this stage in my career, I have worked with clients from 37 countries. I have helped my clients raise A, B, and C rounds, sell million-dollar projects and speak to media on camera in high pressure interviews. ESL speakers have a special understanding of the importance of good articulation of language.

However, articulation training is not for ESL speakers alone. Increasing the clarity of your speech with articulation exercises right before a meeting or each morning before work increases the positive impact you have on others. Having taken the time to carefully craft your delivery relaxes your listeners. They do not have to strain to understand you or fear missing out on something you have said. I cannot emphasize enough how crucial this piece is for virtual meetings where the sound quality of the platform itself may be working against you.

Moving forward

As you apply the above exercises and advice, remember these three areas are meant to refuel your energy. The added benefits are the increased power of your presence, a richer vocal quality, and articulate messaging, which enables a more successful meeting for you and your colleagues or team members.