A to Z of Negotiation: Z is for ZZZZ

Some of you may be wondering what sleep has to do with negotiation. When we negotiate, we need to be mentally prepared and in a state which allows us to stay focused and think on our feet. These are all things that will be adversely impacted by insufficient sleep.

When you’re sleepy, most of your cognitive abilities reduce. For example:

  • Speed of processing information slows down.

  • Ability to multitask weakens.

  • Ability to organize information and concepts into categories breaks down.

  • Ability to recognise patterns withers.

  • Ability to change your mind is inhibited.

  • Ability to remember instructions long enough to accomplish a task dissolves.

Cognition defines how you understand a particular situation and how you act as a result. It affects what you see, what you hear, how you remember events, and how you react to those events.


A loss of cognitive abilities can affects critical elements of negotiation abilities:

  • Perception

  • Language skills

  • Motor skills

  • Social skills

Sleep Restores Creativity


Interest based negotiation relies on creatively brainstorming options to increase the amount of value on the table. When well rested, you are most likely more creative than when you’re tired. When well rested, a negotiator can contemplate new solutions to seal a deal and be able to consider the effects of putting into practice those suggestions.


Sleep-Deprived People are More Likely to Cheat


According to a Harvard Business Review report, sleep deprived people are more likely to cheat. Lack of sleep may cause an otherwise moral person to engage in unethical practices. Unethical behavior can damage relations and cause legal problems.


Lack of sleep affects how we exercise willpower and self-control. We are then more at risk of resorting to unethical shortcuts to achieve temporary results. For example, it may be tempting to oversell your proposition or lie about the fine print of a contract.


Sleepiness Can Result in Memory Loss


The quantity and quality of sleep can have a profound effect on memory retention. When you’re sleep deprived, you may struggle through the three stages of memory.

  • Acquisition: You may find it challenging to grasp new information.

  • Consolidation: Your brain may struggle to stabilize memories.

  • Recall: You could find it challenging to access stored information.

While acquisition and recall only happen during wakefulness, consolidation occurs when you sleep. While asleep, the brain strengthens neural connections which stabilize your memories.


Lack of sleep can interrupt the consolidation phase. Interruption of neural connections hampers the acquisition and recall processes. Therefore, a negotiator lacking sleep will likely find it challenging to keep up with discussions. When deprived of sleep, it’s common to miss conversation details that are critical to the deal.


Sleep Deprivation Can Cause Anger


Sleep affects your mood. Poor sleep patterns, not enough sleep, or low quality of sleep can all result in stress and feeling irritable. Sleep deprivation may cause you to be abrupt and unsociable. This leads to mistrust and loss of goodwill.


An irritable negotiator may react harshly to the slightest provocation. Your anger may result in turning down a great deal for personal reasons unrelated to the agreement.


Fatigue Prompts Anxiety


Negotiation trainers often warn trainees about being prone to bouts of anxiety if they are sleep deprived in a high-tension negotiation environment. It’s a vicious cycle. Anxiety heightens insomnia, often leading to more sleepiness and more anxiety. Lack of sleep and anxiety feed off each other, which worsens the situation.


A tired negotiator fighting anxiety can end up accepting an unfavorable offer. For instance, you may accept an offer at a seemingly acceptable purchase price without factoring in shipping and handling expenses.


So, remember, next time you have an important negotiation coming up, include a good night's sleep on your preparation plan!


If you could benefit from refreshing your negotiation skills, reach out to us to see how we can help.


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