Imagine this. You've spent months on a business deal. Everything is going well. Then in one five-minute phone call, the deal is dead. How does this happen?

Let's look at a true story of a business acquisition where this very thing happened--and what we can learn from it.

The story starts with a simple meeting. Everything was going well. The buyer's CEO has a good relationship with the seller's CEO.

The "due diligence" stage is almost complete. The final purchase agreements are even drafted. The only major step is to meet some of the key employees and close the deal.

It's all set. The buyer's vice president is flying in to make sure key staff want to stay with the company--they're highly valued by the buyer and the company is not as valuable without them.

Here's the scene: The VP's flight has landed, and he's calling the seller's CEO to confirm meeting logistics.

Minute one: "I just wanted to confirm that 11 a.m. is still convenient for the employee interviews."

Minute five: "The deal is off."

So, what happened in mere minutes of a phone call to make it fall apart?

Fear and emotion

Here's what went wrong. The seller's CEO was generally a fearful person. His tendency was to assume the worst would happen. He was also a bit emotional, and it didn't take much to draw an emotion-driven reaction. These characteristics lost him the deal.

The purpose of the meeting was for the buyer's VP to meet the employees, and confirm they were happy and planning to stay.

On the call, the seller's CEO heard the word "interview" and his mind went straight to the negative. He said, "Why would you interview my employees? I'm not going to let them interview for the job they already have!"

His fear triggered such a strong emotion that he couldn't even allow himself to see that the buyer valued his employees just as much as he did. Once the emotion set in, there was no turning back.

Fear and emotion is an explosive combination. Let's turn our attention to how to overcome it.

When we are fearful, we assume the worst. We hesitate, and we focus on what we don't want to happen. That manifests itself in short-sighted decisions and how we communicate.

Even when we are trying to manage risk, fear turns us into our own worst enemy. Add emotion to that and the fear is multiplied, and our communication becomes destructive.

What to do if you're fearful or emotional

Start by focusing on your communication--first with yourself, and then with your counterpart.

How you communicate to yourself about your concerns will either escalate the fear or tame it. Ask yourself: What positive outcomes exist? What is the true likelihood that the negative outcome is realized? What is the real impact?

Your communication with yourself, programs how you think. Program yourself to focus on the win and you will be more likely to get the win.

Next, is your communication with your counterpart. Remember this: if you are showing over-the-top emotion, you are probably losing. You are also not listening.

Actively listen to the other side. Understand what they are communicating. Assume the best and let that guide you.

Managing risk is important in a deal, but I have seen more people lose than win, by overly focusing on risk to the point that risk becomes fear.

What do to if the other person is fearful or emotional

Listen intently and watch for their triggers. Try to understand the underlying reason they are fearful or emotional.

Learn about their past and build a meaningful and trusting relationship. Find out what happened that made them this way.

Don't focus on them being fearful or emotional. Focus on why. If you begin to understand the 'why' and you are sensitive to the triggers, you'll know how to avoid watching your deal go down in flames.

Or, as in the story of the interview, you will be armed to make the smart decision that the buyer did, and know when to walk away.