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Heat in negotiations? How to keep a cool head even in sweat-inducing temperatures

The sun is burning, your body is sweating, and your head is screaming for a cool drink and a shady spot to relax. However, the challenges of the workday have called, and a heated negotiation is imminent. These are not exactly ideal conditions to ensure you a concentrated and controlled approach in negotiations. But with a few tips and tricks, you can use these adverse circumstances to your advantage – and negotiate successfully despite hot temperatures.

Quarreling occurs often in the heat

Numerous studies confirm that intense heat negatively affects people’s cognitive abilities: it reduces their ability to concentrate, promotes aggression, and makes them less critical of others. Higher temperatures even increase the risk of automobile accidents. Accident research performed by the ADAC investigated 12,000 accidents since 2005 and concluded that every seventh serious accident occurs on days with temperatures of more than 25 degrees Celsius. Errors of perception and lack of concentration are the main causes of these incidents. These challenges exist as well for negotiations. After all, reducing perception errors and remaining focused are critical success factors for success in negotiations. Accordingly, the framework conditions of heat negotiations are at least as important as the content of said negotiation.

Even the police shoot faster

Psychologist Craig Anderson of Iowa State University investigates how heat makes people more hostile and impulsive. He compared how crime statistics in the USA varied as a function of temperature and found that at temperatures above 32 degrees Celsius more cases of domestic violence, such as insults and bodily injuries, occurred. Subsequent laboratory studies investigated how attitudes and perceptions change due to high temperatures. They confirmed that heat makes test subjects more susceptible to negative thoughts and thus more capricious and potentially more hostile. For example, police officers in ambiguous situations shoot faster at higher rather than at lower temperatures.

Economist Edward Miguel and his team at the University of California at Berkeley have conducted more than 60 studies and found that heat can even promote conflict between states. The link between weather conditions and political or social conflicts is, as they concluded, the following: The warmer it got, the more conflicts were initiated between groups and nations.

For negotiations in a business context, this means: Keep a cool head as much as possible! This can be the key to success, especially in sweltering conditions.

Successfully negotiate in the heat

The basis of any successful negotiation is a productive working environment. Ideal conditions are 18 to 20 degrees Celsius and a regular supply of fresh air. Even if the sun is burning in midsummer, the temperatures in the negotiation rooms should not exceed 26 degrees Celsius. At 28 degrees Celsius, human performance drops rapidly. Direct sunlight should also be prevented, for example, with blinds or curtains. If the spaces get hot and stuffy, the mind and body will suffer equally.

In high temperatures, longer negotiations should be divided into reasonable portions to accommodate the resulting shorter concentration span. By dividing topics and tasks into small steps, you can achieve important partial successes. This provides an important motivational boost and increases stamina. Start with an easy topic and work your way slowly into the more controversial areas.

You need to plan regular breaks during the negotiations. The best type of break is a short walk. The movement supplies the body with oxygen and increases brain activity and concentration. In extreme heat, however, physical exertion should be avoided. In this instance, a short stay in the shade makes sense.

How to stay efficient

Consistently pay attention to sleep

Long heat-waves eat away at the physical substance. To negotiate successfully, it is crucial to remain efficient and capable. The best way to do this is to get enough sleep. Try to keep your bedroom as cool as possible. Fans, suspended cold-wet towels and consistent ventilation in the evening hours can help with this.

Have a hearty breakfast

It may sound absurd, but it is absolutely necessary: Breakfast is a good idea! Those who are already hungry in the morning hours have concentration difficulties and little energy, especially in hot weather. Dietary fibres and nutrient-rich foods such as eggs, fruit, and dairy products keep one full for longer and provide much energy.

A mint for concentration

During the day you should be careful to drink enough. Low-sugar drinks with mint or basil are best! These two herbs refresh you from the inside and maintain your concentration more effectively.

Energy booster for in-between

Avoid heavy meals as well as coffee and alcohol to not unnecessarily strain your circulation. Salads, smoothies or ready-to-drink meals provide your body with the necessary substances to master even lengthy negotiations.

Use breaks for yourself

Make sure you have enough breaks in your agenda (especially for your own benefit). Make sure, however, to still give your negotiating partner a task to think about during the break. After all, he’s not supposed to recover as much as you do.

Quick cool-down during breaks in negotiations

If there’s nothing left, a little refreshment can help: Place your forearms under cold running water for a few minutes. It cools the body and gives you new energy.



  • Mohamed Hassan, Pixabay | CC 0 Public Domain

Thorsten Hofmann, C4 Institute, Quadriga University Berlin

Thorsten Hofmann leads the CfN (Center for Negotiation) at the Quadriga University Berlin’s Institute for Crisis, Change and Conflict Communication C4. He is an internationally certified Negotiation Trainer and advises corporations and organisations in complex negotiation processes.