Social Anxiety and Negotiation: The Effects of Attentional Focus
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Negotiation poses a unique challenge in the modern workplace which is likely to be especially difficult for socially anxious individuals. Previous research has shown that externally focused attention strategies are useful at alleviating social anxiety symptoms and in helping improve negotiation outcomes; however this intervention has never been examined amongst socially anxious negotiators. This study examined the effect of external- and self-focused attention manipulations on anxiety, perspective (observer-field), and monetary negotiation outcomes. Thirty-eight high social anxiety (HSA) and 52 low social anxiety (LSA) female participants completed a dyadic negotiation simulation with a partner. The external-focus manipulation was successful at increasing attention focus in the desired direction, while the self-focus manipulation was not and, thus, was discarded from subsequent analyses. Results demonstrated that externally focused attention resulted in significant decreases in state anxiety during the negotiation and a significant shift in perspective from observer to field, for participants in both the HSA and LSA groups. However, these changes did not translate into better objective negotiation performance, as measured by the total commission (i.e., money) earned. The implications of the results for social anxiety and the development of workplace intervention programs are discussed.