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Why Negotiators Live Longer
by Ed Brodow

In 1994, I coined the term negotiation consciousness to describe how successful negotiators are assertive and challenge everything. This is the most important trait for any negotiator. To my delight, the scientific community has confirmed a correlation between negotiation consciousness and longevity. What a relief -- I'm going to live longer!

The San Francisco Chronicle has reported the findings of a 10-year study of centenarians -- Americans who have passed their 100th birthday -- run by psychologist Leonard Poon, director of the University of Georgia's Gerontology Center.

Poon's study began in 1988 on a National Institutes of Health grant. His objective was to explore reasons for successful aging. What he found was that "in extreme old age individuals can be assertive and forceful." Centenarians "tend to be independent," Poon said. "They also tend to be suspicious. They won't just take one's word on something. They tend to question what you have to tell them."

In other words, people who exhibit the number one trait of successful negotiators -- negotiation consciousness -- are more likely to live longer!

Challenge Your Mortality
As I explain in my book, Negotiate With Confidence, all of the successful negotiators I know proceed from the assumption that everything is negotiable. Challenge, as my book defines it, means not taking things at face value. It means thinking for yourself. You must be able to make up your own mind, as opposed to believing everything you are told. Sound familiar? It sounds like it's right out of Poon's study.

My assumption is that you can't be a successful negotiator unless you are willing to challenge the validity of the opposing position. People who pay full sticker price on a new car and who believe everything they read in the newspaper or hear on CNN are not likely candidates for Negotiator of the Month. Ironically, neither are they likely candidates for longevity.

Some new age thinkers like Deepak Chopra have suggested that the aging process can be retarded by positive mental attitude. What Poon's study suggests is that positive mental attitude, or what I call negotiation consciousness, is a mandatory prerequisite for longevity.

Assert Your Way To 100
Poon also describes his centenarians as being assertive. Being assertive means taking care of your own interests while maintaining respect for the interests of others. (As opposed to being aggressive, which implies that you attend to your own interests with a lack of regard for others.) Here are some assertiveness training tips:

Ask.
Get into the habit of asking for what you want. Be persistent. Don't take no for an answer. In my negotiation training seminars, I am always amazed at how many participants are reluctant to pursue their basic interests. We have been led to believe that there is something wrong with taking care of our own needs.

Next time you take a commercial flight, read the card that describes what to do in the event of a loss of cabin pressure. You are advised to adjust your own breathing mask before you attend to that of your child. In other words, if we don't satisfy our own needs, we aren't in a very good position to help anyone else. People who ask for what they need are people who receive.

Eliminate negative self-talk.
Self-awareness is the key. Every time you become aware that your inner voice is telling you not to be assertive, give yourself a pat on the back. Substitute a positive thought for the negative one. "I have a good chance of getting what I want if I ask for it" is more productive than "They'll never say yes."

Practice expressing your feelings without anxiety or anger.
Let people know how you feel in a non-threatening way. Practice 'I' statements. For example, instead of saying, "You shouldn't do that," try substituting, "I don't feel comfortable when you do that."

Learn how to say no.
In other words, set limits. If you perceive yourself as a separate human being, you can establish your boundaries. Don't permit other people to step over those boundaries. This is how we learn to withstand intimidation. "I'm sorry, but I'm really not interested in buying a car today, thank you."

I hope you're as excited as I am to know that being an avid negotiator means living longer. Please let me know if this works for you -- call me when you reach 100! If I don't answer, keep trying.

Ed Brodow is a motivational speaker, negotiation guru on PBS, and author of Negotiate with Confidence and Beating the Success Trap.

Copyright © 2005 Ed Brodow Seminars, Inc. All rights reserved.

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