What are we doing tonight? Where are we going to order our food from? What movie are we going to watch today? So much of what we decide in life requires negotiation. Sometimes, as in the above examples, the stakes are relatively low; the worst results of a bad decision are boredom and heartburn. However, sometimes, negotiations have a lot more on the line: Life and death, to be precise. This is what Chris Voss, a 24-year FBI veteran negotiator, has had to deal with for most of his professional career.
Recently Voss sat down with The Science of Success Podcast's Matt Bodnar and producer Austin Fabel to discuss some very effective negotiation techniques and tactics which the FBI uses in the field that can be used in the business world.
A selection of these can be seen below:
In a negotiation it's critical to get as much information out of the other person/people as possible. Voss explains that by ‘mirroring’ them by repeating the last three to five words in their sentence, they are forced to repeat themselves in a different way which gives more valuable information and clarifies their point.
Voss admits that this is very awkward to do, but insists that the other person never notices what you are trying to do and actually feels listened to. However, you should forget about the awkwardness and always use this technique as it works every single time.
Voss declares that these two interrogatives are extremely powerful negotiating tools, as they encourage the other people to continue talking, to clarify and to reveal their true motives and intentions. “So you would like to settle on these conditions? What is it about this 10-day window that works for you?
Similarly with “how?” if someone demands 500,000 dollars as a ransom, Voss might respond with something like, “I fully understand, but I need you to take a look at the whole picture here. How am I supposed to do that?” This causes the other person to put themselves into Voss’ shoes. It forces them to be on your side for a moment or two, and in hearing them think out a plan, it can reveal certain hidden motivations.
A lot of the time during a hostage negotiation you’re not speaking directly to the man in charge. Typically, someone within the group will be given the job of talking to law enforcement to give the demands. This has a parallel with the business world as more often than not you have to talk to gatekeepers, assistants and people who are not in charge before you get to the person who makes the final decisions.
In business and hostage negotiations, trying to ignore these people is just looking for trouble. If you talk down to someone’s assistant, they’re simply not going to put you through to their boss. This takes little effort from them, but provides a huge blow to you. Similarly, if you belittle a terrorist on the other end of the phone he may just hang up on you, leaving you at a dead end.
To bypass the possibility of this happening, Voss recommends that you bring them into the conversation. “How does what I’m saying fit in with your plans?” This simple sentence creates a conversation and puts the other person in a position where they feel some respect, and also feel the need to put you through to the person in charge.
Voss states that there are long-term negative effects of telling lies. In a hostage negotiation, if you lie to someone you’d better kill them because if word gets out that the FBI are liars, the next group who takes someone hostage will not even try to negotiate.
Lying can be an easy way to get what you want at that moment in time, but if word gets about that you’re a liar, you’ve lost all future leverage. So instead of having to kill someone, just don’t lie in the first place.