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How to ace a difficult work meeting

Practice makes perfect.

Always prepare for a meeting with your boss.

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Picture this: You have just been scheduled to have a meeting with your boss about a difficult work project in two days. What do you do next?

If you are like most people, the answer is worry and panic.

“The first mistake people make is that they avoid preparing,” says Hal Movius, the author of the book “Resolve: Negotiating Life’s Conflicts With Greater Confidence” (out Jan. 7). “Sometimes people believe that preparing won’t help and decide to take a wait-and-see approach. But preparing is really important. You shouldn’t wing it.”

Movius shares these tips for anyone dreading their next meeting.

Think of the counterarguments

“Spend some time imagining the other side of the story,” he suggests. Imagine what your boss expects from the project you are working on and what she’d say to you. Movius says spending some time thinking of how she would address the problem will help you narrow down what you want to say.

When negotiating ask questions

“The fundamental negotiation error is to misconstrue negotiation only as an act of persuasion,” says Movius. Instead, Movius recommends thinking of negotiation as a conversation in which you ask questions. “Great negotiators ask questions and listen to the answers two times more than unsuccessful negotiators,” he notes. “Before asking for a raise, you might ask your boss, ‘How do you think I’ve done in this position?’ or ‘What are the valuable ways I can help you in this job?’”

Practice, practice, practice

Another big mistake many employees make is not practicing their negotiation pitches out loud. “Thinking something or writing something down uses a different part of your brain than saying it out loud,” says Movius.

“Think of it this way: Watching someone swim is a lot different than actually getting in the pool yourself. Having a negotiation is the same way.”

Movius notes there are a couple of ways to prep for an upcoming meeting. “You can do it yourself and film yourself with your cellphone,” he says, “but it’s more powerful with another person.”

Ask a friend if they would mind playing the part of your boss or coworker in your meeting. “You can just ask ‘What do you observe?’” says Movius. “They might say something like ‘You opened by criticizing the other person’ while you thought you were explaining the situation.”

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