Of course some of this is right up to and maybe over the line of manipulation. But a lot of it is NOT, and is just dealing with how we are wired as humans in a way that is constructive for everyone. The Chris referred to in this post is Chris Voss. He was the FBI’s lead international hostage negotiator and he’s the author of an excellent new book: “Never Split The Difference.”
- Don’t be direct: Direct usually comes off as rude, no matter your intentions. Be nice and slow it down.
- Don’t try to get them to say “yes”: Pushing for a “yes” makes people defensive. Try to get a “no.”
- Do an “accusation audit”: Acknowledge all the negative things they think about you to defuse them.
- Let them feel in control: People want autonomy. Ask questions and let them feel like they’re in charge.
- The two magic words they need to say: Summarize their position to trigger a “That’s right.”
- Listen for levers: They might only need the orange peel. Listen, listen, listen.
- Keep asking “How am I supposed to do that?”: Let them solve your problems for you.
Emotions are critical. Most deals end because of negative feelings and most deals close because people like one another. So don’t alienate the other side — unless you are trying to kill the deal. (And that’s an effective technique as well.)
But what you really want to do is what that magic phrase “How am I supposed to do that?” accomplishes so well. It allows you to say “no” without making an enemy. Chris sums it up nicely in his book with a quote.
From Never Split The Difference:
“He who learns to disagree without being disagreeable has discovered the most valuable secret of negotiation.”
Discussions and negotiations aren’t about war or winning. It’s about finding a way for everyone to get what they want and to be happy with what they get. For the people closest to us, it’s also about understanding them better through listening.
And that’s what builds relationships that last.
A little more detail on the keys I found most interesting:
1) Don’t be direct
Straightforward and honest are good qualities. But when you’re too direct in a negotiation or heated discussion, it can come off as blunt and rude. You sound like you don’t care about the other side and just want what you want.
Skipping listening, empathy, and rapport is what turns an easily resolved dilemma into a fight. And you never want to turn a discussion into a war. Be nice and slow it down. Here’s Chris:
Don’t think, “I’m a very direct and honest person. I want people to be direct and honest with me, so I’m going to be direct and honest with you.” Well, that happens to come across as being very blunt and overly aggressive. If I’m not aware that my direct and honest approach is actually offensive to you, then I’ll be mystified as to what your problem is. Meanwhile, dealing with me might feel like getting hit in the face with a brick.
“Cutting to the chase” can feel like an attack. So slow down. Smile. Use a friendly tone or a calm voice.
3) You need to do an “accusation audit”
If it’s an argument with a loved one or a business negotiation that’s headed south, the other side probably has made some accusations about you. “You don’t listen” or “You’re being unfair.”
And the common response is to start your reply with “I’m not ____.” You deny their feelings. Boom — you just lost the patient, doctor. They now assume you’re not on the same page. That they can’t trust you.
So what does Chris say to do instead? List every terrible thing they could say about you.
6) Listen for levers
Sometimes you feel you have no leverage. But Chris believes there is always leverage. You just have to find it. And you do that by listening and asking questions — which nicely builds rapport and makes your counterpart feel in control at the same time.
Negotiation is not a fight. It’s a process of discovery. When you know their real needs, the real reasons they are resisting you, then you’re able to address those directly and problem-solve.
What’s interesting to me is that they use the word “levers” and “leverage.” I guess you can look at it that way, but really you are looking for points of agreement and ways to make a situation win-win.
7) “How am I supposed to do that?”
Playing dumb works. In fact, being helpless works too. Asking “How am I supposed to do that?” is deceptively powerful.
It gets them to solve your problems for you and in a way they deem acceptable.
From Never Split The Difference:
Calibrated “How” questions are a surefire way to keep negotiations going. They put pressure on your counterpart to come up with answers, and to contemplate your problems when making their demands… 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 — yoursolution.
By getting the other side to think about your situation it very often gets them to grant concessions. And they’re concessions that they’re okay with and will likely stick to because it was their idea to offer them. Here’s Chris:
You want to make the other side take an honest look at your situation. It’s the first way of saying “no” where you’re doing a lot of things simultaneously. You’re making the other side take a look at you. You make them feel in control, because it’s a good “how” question. You don’t want to say it as an accusation. You want to say it deferentially, because there’s great power in deference. You want to find out if they’re going to collaborate with you. 9 times out of 10, you get a response that’s really very good.
Keep asking it. In hostage negotiations Chris would ask it over and over: “How do we know the hostage is safe?” “We don’t have that kind of money. How are we supposed to get it?” “But how do we deliver the ransom to you?”
Now I know what some of you are thinking… Eventually they’re going to say, “You’re just going to have to figure it out.” And that’s fine. That’s the signal you haven’t “left any money on the table.”
This last point is a great one. It’s the classic way that women get their ideas heard in meetings. One important point that he left out here is that you can steer the “how” questions to lead to the idea that you have. Of course, as women are painfully aware, this leads to you getting credit for exactly zero ideas.