The Chairman of Shapiro Negotiations, Ron Shapiro, shared the story of how his little leaguer son used an unconventional technique that turned out to be a secret weapon.
“When my son, David, was a pitcher for his Little League team, he would concentrate so hard on throwing strikes that he’s get very tense, and instead of pitching better, he’d begin to lose control and start to throw wild pitches. The more tense he got, the less he found the strike zone. After a game or two with too many hits and run for the opposing team (which is saying a lot in always high-scoring Little League), I thought maybe I should try to help. Instead of giving David technical advice like “Change your stance to the catcher or shorten your windup,” I told him to remind himself to smile when he was on the mound. Baseball is supposed to be fun. Sometimes you forget that and get caught up in the pressure and have to remind yourself. I told him that I’d help remind him. After that, game after game, I’d stand at the sidelines, and to the amusement of other parents, I’d cheer him on with “Smile it up, David. Smile it up,” until I’d finally see a smile creep across his face. And right after the smile came the strikes.”
Sometimes a smile is the best medicine for stress. If it can work for a little leaguer it can work for you. If the next time you find yourself dealing with a difficult negotiator and the encounter is getting heated, stop, take a breath, and smile.