It all starts with the universally applicable premise that people want to be understood and accepted. Listening is the cheapest, yet most effective concession we can make to get there. By listening intensely, a negotiator demonstrates empathy and shows a sincere desire to better understand what the other side is experiencing.
Research shows that the best way to deal with negativity is to observe it, without reaction and without judgment. Then consciously label each negative feeling and replace it with positive, compassionate, and solution-based thoughts.
When people are in a positive frame of mind, they think more quickly, and are more likely to collaborate and problem-solve (instead of fight and resist). It applies to the smile-er as much as to the smile-ee: a smile on your face, and in your voice, will increase your own mental agility.
Great negotiators are able to question the assumptions that the rest of the involved players accept on faith or in arrogance, and thus remain more emotionally open to all possibilities, and more intellectually agile to a fluid situation.
The goal is to identify what your counterparts actually need (monetarily, emotionally, or otherwise) and get them feeling safe enough to talk and talk and talk some more about what they want.
Effective negotiation is applied people smarts, a psychological edge in every domain of life: how to size someone up, how to influence their sizing up of you, and how to use that knowledge to get what you want.
But neither wants nor needs are where we start; it begins with listening, making it about the other people, validating their emotions, and creating enough trust and safety for a real conversation to begin.
To get real leverage, you have to persuade them that they have something concrete to lose if the deal falls through.
The first step of doing so is listing every terrible thing your counterpart could say about you, in what I call an accusation audit.
Going too fast is one of the mistakes all negotiators are prone to making.
Though the intensity may differ from person to person, you can be sure that everyone you meet is driven by two primal urges: the need to feel safe and secure, and the need to feel in control. If you satisfy those drives, you’re in the door.
Most of the time, you should be using the positive/playful voice. It’s the voice of an easygoing, good-natured person. Your attitude is light and encouraging. The key here is to relax and smile while you’re talking. A smile, even while talking on the phone, has an impact tonally that the other person will pick up on.
It’s almost laughably simple: for the FBI, a “mirror” is when you repeat the last three words (or the critical one to three words) of what someone has just said. Of the entirety of the FBI’s hostage negotiation skill set, mirroring is the closest one gets to a Jedi mind trick. Simple, and yet uncannily effective.
“If you approach a negotiation thinking that the other guy thinks like you, you’re wrong,” I say. “That’s not empathy; that’s projection.”
It’s just four simple steps: 1. Use the late-night FM DJ voice. Start with “I’m sorry . .” 3. At least four seconds, to let the mirror work its magic on your counterpart.
If you can get the other party to reveal their problems, pain, and unmet objectives—if you can get at what people are really buying—then you can sell them a vision of their problem that leaves your proposal as the perfect solution.
Mirroring, also called isopraxism, is essentially imitation. It’s another neurobehavior humans (and other animals) display in which we copy each other to comfort each other. It can be done with speech patterns, body language, vocabulary, tempo, and tone of voice. It’s generally an unconscious behavior—we are rarely aware of it when it’s happening—but it’s a sign that people are bonding, in sync, and establishing the kind of rapport that leads to trust.
Tactical empathy is understanding the feelings and mindset of another in the moment and also hearing what is behind those feelings so you increase your influence in all the moments that follow. It’s bringing our attention to both the emotional obstacles and the potential pathways to getting an agreement done.
There are two key questions you can ask to push your counterparts to think they are defining success their way: “How will we know we’re on track?” and “How will we address things if we find we’re off track?” When they answer, you summarize their answers until you get a “That’s right.” Then you’ll know they’ve bought in.
Humanize yourself. Use your name to introduce yourself. Say it in a fun, friendly way. Let them enjoy the interaction, too. And get your own special price.
The last rule of labeling is silence. Once you’ve thrown out a label, be quiet and listen.
“He who has learned to disagree without being disagreeable has discovered the most valuable secret of negotiation.”
“I’m just asking questions,” I said. “It’s a passive-aggressive approach. I just ask the same three or four open-ended questions over and over and over and over. They get worn out answering and give me everything I want.”
The Black Swan rule is don’t treat others the way you want to be treated; treat them the way they need to be treated.
Their system was easy to follow and seductive, with four basic tenets. One, separate the person—the emotion—from the problem; two, don’t get wrapped up in the other side’s position (what they’re asking for) but instead focus on their interests (why they’re asking for it) so that you can find what they really want; three, work cooperatively to generate win-win options; and, four, establish mutually agreed-upon standards for evaluating those possible solutions.
“How am I supposed to do that?”
You can be very direct and to the point as long as you create safety by a tone of voice that says I’m okay, you’re okay, let’s figure things out.
Deadlines are often arbitrary, almost always flexible, and hardly ever trigger the consequences we think—or are told—they will.
By repeating back what people say, you trigger this mirroring instinct and your counterpart will inevitably elaborate on what was just said and sustain the process of connecting.
Using all your skills to create rapport, agreement, and connection with a counterpart is useful, but ultimately that connection is useless unless the other person feels that they are equally as responsible, if not solely responsible, for creating the connection and the new ideas they have.
Who has control in a conversation, the guy listening or the guy talking? The listener, of course. That’s because the talker is revealing information while the listener, if he’s trained well, is directing the conversation toward his own goals. He’s harnessing the talker’s energy for his own ends.
Some people are Accommodators; others—like me—are basically Assertive; and the rest are data-loving Analysts.
Labeling is a way of validating someone’s emotion by acknowledging it. Give someone’s emotion a name and you show you identify with how that person feels. It gets you close to someone without asking about external factors you know nothing about (“How’s your family?”). Think of labeling as a shortcut to intimacy, a time-saving emotional hack.
Giving your counterpart the illusion of control by asking calibrated questions—by asking for help—is one of the most powerful tools for suspending unbelief.
Moore discovered that when negotiators tell their counterparts about their deadline, they get better deals. First, by revealing your cutoff you reduce the risk of impasse. And second, when an opponent knows your deadline, he’ll get to the real deal- and concession-making more quickly.
Try this the next time you have to apologize for a bone-headed mistake. Go right at it. The fastest and most efficient means of establishing a quick working relationship is to acknowledge the negative and diffuse it.
Ask: “What does it take to be successful here?”
The reasons why a counterpart will not make an agreement with you are often more powerful than why they will make a deal, so focus first on clearing the barriers to agreement. Denying barriers or negative influences gives them credence; get them into the open.
Driving toward “that’s right” is a winning strategy in all negotiations. But hearing “you’re right” is a disaster.
The clear point here is that people operating with incomplete information appear crazy to those who have different information. Your job when faced with someone like this in a negotiation is to discover what they do not know and supply that information.
As you’ll soon learn, the sweetest two words in any negotiation are actually “That’s right.”
Use a summary to trigger a “that’s right.” The building blocks of a good summary are a label combined with paraphrasing. Identify, rearticulate, and emotionally affirm “the world according to .
There are actually three kinds of “Yes”: Counterfeit, Confirmation, and Commitment.
Understand, if you offer a range (and it’s a good idea to do so) expect them to come in at the low end.
Mirroring will make you feel awkward as heck when you first try it. That’s the only hard part about it; the technique takes a little practice. Once you get the hang of it, though, it’ll become a conversational Swiss Army knife valuable in just about every professional and social setting.
The theory argues that people are drawn to sure things over probabilities, even when the probability is a better choice. That’s called the Certainty Effect. And people will take greater risks to avoid losses than to achieve gains. That’s called Loss Aversion.
Then, after pausing, ask solution-based questions or simply label their effect: “What about this doesn’t work for you?” “What would you need to make it work?” “It seems like there’s something here that bothers you.” People have a need to say, “No.” So don’t just hope to hear it at some point; get them to say it early.
The first time they agree to something or give you a commitment, that’s No. 2 you might label or summarize what they said so they answer, “That’s right.” And No. 3 could be a calibrated “How” or “What” question about implementation that asks them to explain what will constitute success, something like “What do we do if we get off track?”
The biggest thing to remember is that numbers that end in 0 inevitably feel like temporary placeholders, guesstimates that you can easily be negotiated off of. But anything you throw out that sounds less rounded—say, $37,263—feels like a figure that you came to as a result of thoughtful calculation. Such numbers feel serious and permanent to your counterpart, so use them to fortify your offers.
People will take more risks to avoid a loss than to realize a gain. Make sure your counterpart sees that there is something to lose by inaction.
And so when someone puts out a ridiculous offer, one that really pisses you off, take a deep breath, allow little anger, and channel it—at the proposal, not the person—and say, “I don’t see how that would ever work.”
When your adversaries say, “That’s right,” they feel they have assessed what you’ve said and pronounced it as correct of their own free will. They embrace it.
“No” is the start of the negotiation, not the end of it. We’ve been conditioned to fear the word “No.” But it is a statement of perception far more often than of fact. It seldom means, “I have considered all the facts and made a rational choice.” Instead, “No” is often a decision, frequently temporary, to maintain the status quo. Change is scary, and “No” provides a little protection from that scariness.
The less important he makes himself, the more important he probably is (and vice versa).
The second use of the F-bomb is more nefarious. In this one, your counterpart will basically accuse you of being dense or dishonest by saying, “We’ve given you a fair offer.” It’s a terrible little jab meant to distract your attention and manipulate you into giving in.
Mirrors work magic. Repeat the last three words (or the critical one to three words) of what someone has just said. We fear what’s different and are drawn to what’s similar. Mirroring is the art of insinuating similarity, which facilitates bonding. Use mirrors to encourage the other side to empathize and bond with you, keep people talking, buy your side time to regroup, and encourage your counterparts to reveal their strategy.
Negotiation serves two distinct, vital life functions—information gathering and behavior influencing—and includes almost any interaction where each party wants something from the other side.
What good negotiators do when labeling is address those underlying emotions. Labeling negatives diffuses them (or defuses them, in extreme cases); labeling positives reinforces them.
CNU developed what is a powerful staple in the high-stakes world of crisis negotiation, the Behavioral Change Stairway Model (BCSM). The model proposes five stages—active listening, empathy, rapport, influence, and behavioral change—that take any negotiator from listening to influencing behavior.
The trick to “How” questions is that, correctly used, they are gentle and graceful ways to say “No” and guide your counterpart to develop a better solution—your solution. A gentle How/No invites collaboration and leaves your counterpart with a feeling of having been treated with respect.
As you can see, “No” has a lot of skills. ■ “No” allows the real issues to be brought forth; ■ “No” protects people from making—and lets them correct—ineffective decisions ■ “No” slows things down so that people can freely embrace their decisions and the agreements they enter into ■ “No” helps people feel safe, secure, emotionally comfortable, and in control of their decisions ■ “No” moves everyone’s efforts forward.
Here’s how I use it: Early on in a negotiation, I say, “I want you to feel like you are being treated fairly at all times. So please stop me at any time if you feel I’m being unfair, and we’ll address it.”
In two famous studies on what makes us like or dislike somebody,1 UCLA psychology professor Albert Mehrabian created the 7-38-55 rule. That is, only 7 percent of a message is based on the words while 38 percent comes from the tone of voice and 55 percent from the speaker’s body language and face.
Negotiate in their world. Persuasion is not about how bright or smooth or forceful you are. It’s about the other party convincing themselves that the solution you want is their own idea. So don’t beat them with logic or brute force. Ask them questions that open paths to your goals. It’s not about you.
A more subtle technique is to label your negative leverage and thereby make it clear without attacking. Sentences like “It seems like you strongly value the fact that you’ve always paid on time” or “It seems like you don’t care what position you are leaving me in” can really open up the negotiation process.
Why is “you’re right” the worst answer? Consider this: Whenever someone is bothering you, and they just won’t let up, and they won’t listen to anything you have to say, what do you tell them to get them to shut up and go away? “You’re right.”