Chris Voss dedicated his career to the art of negotiating. He went through the FBI, the investigative agency of the US federal police, where he built his career working as a kidnapping negotiator. In his book ‘Never Split The Difference’ he shares everything he has learned in countless situations and reveals what are the main skills necessary for you to become a great negotiator.
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Life is made up of a series of negotiations, and you should always be prepared: whether at work, with your teenagers, buying a home, or even dealing with your partner. Having emotional intelligence and developing some basic skills can make all the difference when it comes to negotiating. This microbook shows you the key concepts explored by Chris Voss in ‘Never Split The Difference.’ Learn how to trade, what questions to ask and how to identify your trading style. Come with us!
The Need To Study Negotiation
Kidnappings and negotiations with hostages have existed since biblical times. Kidnappings have been mentioned in the Bible’s Old Testament, where the hostages were abducted during wars and then used to manipulate the enemy. However, it was between 1970 and 1973 that the number of kidnappings rose worldwide. In the United States, during the Nixon administration, there was a need to evolve in negotiations with kidnappers. It became clear the FBI needed to be sophisticated and seek increasingly refined techniques.
At that time people were dealing with kidnappings using brute force and firearms, firing until the hostages were released and that resulted in many deaths. Eventually, it was no longer the fault of the kidnappers, but the lack of negotiating skills on the part of the FBI team. The agency realized that things needed to change and so new techniques were developed to save the lives involved in these critical situations.
After that, the Harvard Negotiations Project was founded and became the best place to develop negotiation skills during the 1980s. The co-founders of the project also drew up a manual called ‘Getting to yes,’ who was innovative in the field, changing a lot of what people thought about trading. What the book said was that negotiation depended on the domination of our animal brain and the reaction to things with logic and rational thought.
At the same time, two other teachers were studying all sides of the negotiation. One was an economist, the other a psychologist. Decades of research have allowed them to prove that all human beings suffer from something called cognitive bias – irrational and unconscious brain processes that distort our perspective. These teachers discovered about 150 different biases. We are influenced and guided by our animal mind. This part of the brain is fast, instinctive, and emotional. However, we also have another system that works slowly but is more deliberate and rational.
Affecting the animal mind, we can modify and manipulate the answers given by the most rational minds.
The FBI made use of this manual, and everything seemed to go well until the 90s when again some kidnappings went very wrong. It was there that they realized that abductions are irrational and trying to solve them as a rational problem would not always work. It became clear that officers were not dealing with rational people who would make deals. The kidnappers were driven by their emotions and controlled by their animal instincts. This required negotiators to have expertise in psychology and emotional intelligence. What they needed to develop were psychological tactics. These tactics should be used to calm, establish and gain the confidence of the kidnappers. The FBI decided to try out different techniques and therapeutic counseling skills. The main goal was to develop a positive relationship by showing empathy and understanding. When the person feels understood, he becomes less defensive and more willing to listen to others. ‘Never Split The Difference’ revolves around empathy tactics, which teach you to listen to each other to balance your emotional intelligence and understand the other person’s mind.
Develop Your Negotiation Skills
Good negotiators are aware of what surprises are happening. The best, on the other hand, ensure that they can use their skills to find out what surprises can happen. That requires experience, which teaches a negotiator to think of various hypotheses and variables about the situation. It also requires that it be present at the moment, absorb all new information and eliminate false assumptions. Negotiations use psychological knowledge as new information. That allows you to confirm the correct assumptions. Your goal should be to be able to gather as much information as possible I’m watching. If you do not try to learn something new and keep your old ideas, you will be tempted to make assumptions, something useless in a negotiation. Assumptions lead you to misperceptions and a wrong view of the world. Negotiators should be able to question their assumptions and those of other people. It allows them to be open emotionally and more flexibly intellectually in any situation.
The FBI uses a team when it’s negotiating. The team consists of a person leading and talking to the abductor and some other people listening and instructing the leader, giving advice. Most people do not listen very well; they tend to get distracted easily. But if a team of people is listening, everyone can pay attention in some detail and can together better understand the whole situation. If you are negotiating, focus all your attention on the other person. That allows you to identify what she needs and makes her feel safe enough to talk. Attention activates people’s emotions, ensuring an atmosphere of trust and security.
What you talk about in a negotiation is important, but even more important is how you talk. That is because we do not just process what people say, but we also process their emotions and intentions. Your voice is a powerful tool in verbal communication. People react reflexively to the tone of their voice and the emotions behind it. Therefore, in a negotiation, it is recommended most often a positive and quiet tone of voice. You should negotiate smiling, after all, positive people think faster and have greater mental agility.
Have Empathy And Place Yourself In Their Shoes
You can not separate people from problems during negotiations because those people’s emotions are the problems. Communication problems happen because emotions can lead a person to have unreasonable behavior. Good negotiators do not deny or ignore these emotions.
They identify them and use them to guide their behavior. Being able to understand the emotions of others and your own allows you to use them as a tool. To develop your emotional intelligence, you must open your senses, listen more, and talk less. The more you learn about other people’s emotions, the more advantage you gain.
Empathy requires that you pay attention to the other person, ask what she is feeling, and try to understand things from other perspectives. Tactical empathy goes even further. It involves understanding the feelings of others and understanding what is behind those feelings so that you can influence them. You need to be able to observe the emotional obstacles and the potential ways to overcome such obstacles. When you understand your opponent, you can change things to deal with the situation properly.
Forget ‘Yes’ And Seek ‘No’
Telemarketers are trained to follow a specific roadmap to ensure they continue to hear the word “yes.” We have so many negative connotations with the word “no,” that many find it difficult to say it though it is what they are thinking at the moment. Especially in negotiations, forcing to hear a “yes” can lead to disaster, since it can make the other person feel nervous. For a negotiator, the word “no” is what you want to hear, because it eliminates any doubt. It allows the negotiator to discover what the other person wants, to find a solution or agreement. Many negotiators struggle with this concept but need to see what they can gain from it. “Yes” or “maybe” are usually useless in negotiations; the “no” can change the direction of a conversation.
People hide their emotional truths in rational conversation. When you realize this, you become better able to understand things. A “no” is never simple, but it is the gateway to getting a “yes.” Saying “no” is a defense mechanism that makes you feel protected. It makes you more open to what others have to say because you feel safe and relaxed. It does not leave you a safe place for constructive discussions that can lead to a solution. If the other person feels in control, able to say no, this freedom calms their emotions and improves their decision-making processes.
In addition to seeking to listen to the no, it is also important to listen to what someone is saying when saying “no.” Usually the “no” is not always a rejection; on the contrary, it may be an invitation to new questions. When you get a “no,” you can start asking more questions to understand why. Make sure people say “no” at the beginning of the conversation, and a solution will come quickly later.
While “yes” may seem easy, it deceives you, leading to unpredictable directions. On the other hand, “no” leads you to real problems. It is a way to protect people from bad decisions and to make them feel safe. The “no” makes things move forward. It works as a subtle boost in the right direction.
If you do not hear a “no,” this is also indicative of the type of person you are dealing with.
If you try but do not listen to a “no,” the person is likely to be undecided, too confused or have other covert plans. When this happens, trading will not work, and you’d better give up.
The Five Steps for Successful Negotiations
A specific FBI unit spent some time developing a kind of model for crisis negotiations. This model is known as BCSM or Behavioral Change Stairway Model. In Portuguese, the model would be called the behavioral change ladder model.
It revolves around five steps, to climb a ladder that takes you to change. The steps of this ladder are active attention, empathy, relationship, influence, and behavioral change. These steps, in the right order, guide the negotiator so that he has an influential behavior under the other party. The model is based on the work of psychologist Carl Rogers, who realized that progress only happens when you accept the patient as he is. It requires an unconditional positive consideration of who is on the other side. The problem is that most people learn from childhood that love, praise, and acceptance are conditional and based on what people do right. That teaches us to hide who we are and to use specific words to be accepted and approved. And that’s where that model can help because it helps increase trust and communication.
Silence can be very powerful. When you are silent for a while, the other person will feel obligated to speak. On the other hand, the words you use can help encourage the other person to continue because they let you know that you are paying attention. Repeating a few words spoken by the person will ensure that they feel connected to you. So, instead of arguing with her, repeat some words that have been said. It is equally important to name the feelings of the person and to recognize them. Another useful feature is paraphrasing which means repeating what was said by the other but using your own words. If you paraphrase what the person says, she will agree with you.
Summarizing one’s feelings and opinions can help the person move forward. When someone feels understood, he can better understand his own emotions and open up more to others. This technique is used in negotiations with anyone, be it with a hijacker, a teenager or a potential client.
Learn To Deal With Deadlines
Most people have learned that negotiation requires commitment from both parties and that we must divide things in half so that both parties receive the same share and for everyone to be happy. This approach in a negotiation is naive and can have serious consequences. People do not compromise because it’s fair or right, but because it’s the easiest option at the moment.
The biggest problem in a negotiation is caused by time, or rather, by the term. This may make you believe that an agreement needs to be made quickly and that there is no time to negotiate properly. A good negotiator can resist the urge to hurry when there is a deadline. Instead, it takes advantage of that sense of urgency it generates in other people. Deadlines can cause pressure and anxiety due to imaginary losses or consequences that may occur in the future. The concept of time can make you a hostage, making bad decisions and making bad deals. Remember that deadlines are usually flexible. Patience is one of the best tools in a negotiation.
Deadlines can be used in your favor in numerous situations. But do not let your deadline be a secret. If you do this, you may end up in a dead end, since the other person may think you have plenty of time.
It’s Not About You…
If you start a negotiation considering that the other person thinks like you, then you are not using empathy, you are projecting yourself. Remember that we are not rational beings; we are all irrational and emotional, and we need to understand that. Emotions are necessary for decision processes, and we can not ignore this.
Negotiators should be able to understand subtleties in verbal and nonverbal communication and use them as an advantage. The best negotiators are aware that words represent much more than they appear, and that to truly negotiate, one must understand what lies behind them. To get a good deal, you need to understand and then manipulate the hidden signals and use them to your advantage. You should focus on what the team wants and not what the person you are dealing with either.
Another useful tip is that using the word ‘fair’ is very important in negotiations. Our brains are connected to releasing certain neurotransmitters that lead us to reject injustice. Most people will reject an unfair settlement even if it costs them money. A negotiator should seek to maintain a reputation for being fair and should always want to negotiate with honest and fair people.
Also, using your name while negotiating is another highly effective tactic because the other person will be reminded that you are a real person like her and this will help humanize the situation.
Success Is Achieved After Training Is Used In Practice
The goal of a negotiator is not simply to come to an agreement but to ensure that the agreement will be executed. A negotiator is an architect of decisions. This means that you need to adapt to verbal and nonverbal parts of a negotiation to obtain consent and then implement, put into practice. You need to know that an affirmation means nothing without a plan to implement it. Success is achieved only after implementation and not after an agreement.
Learn How To Bargain
Negotiations will, to a certain extent, reach a level where interactions can revolve around bargains. That can cause anxiety in some people and aggressive behavior in others. That is where most people go wrong during negotiations, usually by misjudging the situation. Bargaining requires an understanding of the psychological processes behind it.
Your negotiating style is developed over time and is shaped by your personality. It starts during childhood and the factors in your life help you to adapt it. Being aware of your trading style allows you to understand your strengths and weaknesses as well as those of other people. This style of trading is especially important when you bargain. Being able to identify the other person’s style allows you to use it strategically.
There are three Negotiating styles:
The Analyst: These negotiators are patient and never rush. They are calm because they have usually done extensive research not to be surprised. They can be seen as cold and distant, which can keep people off. They solve problems like no one and seek reciprocity in a negotiation.
Accommodated: These negotiators like to build relationships and value open communication. They are friendly people, communicate well and can quickly build connections, but with little progress on other issues. They can deliver information quickly during a negotiation, since their purpose is to please others, even if they do not agree with them.
The Assertive: These negotiators believe things need to be done quickly and tend to hurry. They have the goal of achieving the maximum possible, choosing the fastest solution even if it is not the best. These people can be aggressive and are direct communicators. They will only listen to others if they feel they have listened.
First, seek to discover the negotiating style of the other person; this will give you an idea of how to approach it, and you can adapt your trading. It is always crucial to be prepared for the negotiation so that you have a reserve plan when things are not as expected. A negotiator should always be aware that he may suffer a blow. You must learn not to be nervous with a blow. Otherwise, you may give up quickly. Set limits while negotiating to make it easier to take a hit and then strike back without getting nervous or aggressive.
Search For Black Swans
While thinking that you can predict what will happen, you should always expect the unexpected. The Black Swan theory says that the things we think are impossible are possible and can happen. For this reason, what you know to be true may not be the whole truth. In the past in London, people saw only white swans, and that was all they could imagine. No one ever thought that black swans existed, and then people referred to black swans when they thought of impossible things. When the explorers traveled elsewhere, they realized that black swans existed. This theory shows us that it is useless to make predictions based only on past experiences. In all negotiations, there are facts that you know and facts that are unknown.
This situation shows how we try to use what happened in the past to predict what will happen in the future. That does it almost to the point of blindness to the signs and what is going on around them. When facts do not make sense, you need to change the way you look at the situation. We need to use what we know to guide us, but we cannot allow that to blind us. So be open to unknown possibilities, and you will be flexible enough to adapt to situations. Finding black swans is a difficult process because it involves knowing the unknown. It requires us to be more intuitive and receptive to the signals we would not normally observe. Your trading skills will suffer if you only rely on the things you can foresee.
To be truly good at this, you need to be able to discover the unknown and then use it in your favor. To find the black swans, you need to ask questions and listen to the answers.
Your life is a constant negotiation since our lives are made of social interactions. Whether you are negotiating an agreement at work or dealing with a teenager, empathy is your greatest ally. In tricky situations use empathy to understand the other side and actively listen to achieve real behavioral changes!