Everyday life is filled with negotiations. In the morning, you may want a colleague to choose your favorite coffee place, and by the afternoon, you’re desperately trying to keep an angry client from cutting ties with your company. But few of us are asked to take on the responsibility of negotiating for someone’s life. Hostage negotiators are without a doubt the greatest negotiators in the world. With a human life on the line, a hostage negotiator must get 100 percent of what they want for 0 percent of what their opponent wants. How do they do it? Chris Voss, author of “Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It,” claims that the secret is empathy.
Voss didn’t master his skills in negotiation over coffee in the boardroom. Instead, Voss spend 24 years with the FBI Crisis Negotiation Unit. Between 2003 and 2007, Voss acted as the FBI’s chief international hostage and kidnapping negotiator, handling over 150 international hostage situations. During his time with the FBI, Voss realized people are not rational beings. Driven by impulse and emotion, we tend to make irrational decisions. And if people are not rational, why do traditional negotiation strategies treat negotiating like a rational problem to be solved with facts and figures?
The Power Of Mirroring
As a hostage negotiator, Voss learned to appreciate the value of emotional intelligence and intuition. In Chapter 2 of his book, Voss highlights the simple tactic of repeating the last three words the person you’re negotiating with said. This tactic, called mirroring, demands active listening, and can make people feel like they are being heard and understood. Mirroring helps build rapport and improves trust between parties.
Both Parties Should Feel Like They Won
Too often, we walk into negotiations with the mindset that, in order to win, we must become a puppet master and manipulate the situation. Instead, Voss recommends entering negotiations from a place of empathy. Being empathetic does not mean you agree with another person’s ideas, but that you understand why they hold their ideas. And when you understand, you can make sure you both get what you want.
Voss’ strategies were developed in high-stakes situations, but they can easily be replicated in everyday negotiation. “Never Split the Difference” is a book about selling yourself, diffusing situations, and achieving the most desirable outcome. With lessons in emotional intelligence and intuition, “Never Split the Difference” can give you an edge in any situation.
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