Top Video of 2016 #9: 3 Tips to Succeed at Business Negotiations from an FBI Hostage Negotiator
Our brains react subconsciously to what is said during business negotiations. To succeed, it's important to choose your words carefully and be aware of the tone of your voice.
Chris Voss is the Founder and CEO of the Black Swan Group Ltd. He has used his many years of experience in international crisis and high stakes negotiations to develop a unique program and team that applies these globally proven techniques to the business world. Prior to 2008, Chris was the was the lead international kidnapping negotiator for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, as well as the FBI’s hostage negotiation representative for the National Security Council’s Hostage Working Group. During his government career he also represented the U.S. Government at two (2) international conferences sponsored by the G-8 as an expert in kidnapping. Prior to becoming the FBI lead international kidnapping negotiator, Christopher served as the lead Crisis Negotiator for the New York City Division of the FBI. Christopher was a member of the New York City Joint Terrorist Task Force for 14 years. He was the case agent on such cases as TERRSTOP (the Blind Sheikh Case – Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman), the TWA Flight 800 catastrophe and negotiated the surrender of the first hostage taker to give up in the Chase Manhattan bank robbery hostage taking.
During Chris’s 24 year tenure in the Bureau, he was trained in the art of negotiation by not only the FBI, but Scotland Yard and Harvard Law School. He is also a recipient of the Attorney General’s Award for Excellence in Law Enforcement and the FBI Agents Association Award for Distinguished and Exemplary Service. Chris currently teaches business negotiation in the MBA program as an adjunct professor at University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business and at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business. He has taught business negotiation at Harvard University, guest lectured at The Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, The IMD Business School in Lausanne, Switzerland and The Goethe School of Business in Frankfurt, Germany. Since 2009 Christopher has also worked with Insite Security as their Managing Director of the Kidnapping Resolution Practice.
Chris Voss: How you use your voice is really important and it's really driven by context more than anything else, and your tone of voice will immediately begin to impact somebody's mood and immediately how their brain functions. There's actually scientific data out there now that shows us that our brains will work up to 31 percent more effectively if we're in a good mood. So if I smile at you and you see it or you can hear a smile in someone's voice, if I automatically smile at you and you can hear that I like you, I will actually be able to reach into your brain, flip the positive the switch, it puts you in a better mood there are mirror neurons in our brain that we have no control over; they automatically respond. And if I intentionally put you in a good mood your brain will be working more effectively and that already begins to increase the chances that you're going to collaborate with me. You'll be smarter and you'll like me more at the same time.
Now upward and downward inflexion, downward inflexion is often used to say this is the way it is; there's no other way. And I will say it exactly like that. If there is a term in a contract that there's no movement on and I want you to know it and feel it without me having to say there's no movement on this, which maybe you want to yell at somebody and that's ineffective because that triggers a different part of the brain and makes people angry and they want to fight. And I've done this in contract negotiations. I've said things like, "We don't do work for hire," just like that. It lets the other side know there's no movement whatsoever.
I also may need to put you in a more collaborative frame of mind and if I want to ask you a question I'll say something like it seems like this is important to you and I'll inflect up. It's more driven by context. And I can use an upward inflection to encourage you and smile while I'm questioning you. And that will make you feel less attacked by being questioned because people are made to feel a little bit defensive when they're question anyway. So if I know if I have to question you, if I want you to think about a different option then I'm going to be as encouraging as possible while I may be very assertive at the same time.
The mirroring that I teach is not the same as the way most people think of mirroring. Most people when they think of mirroring they think mirroring body language, mirroring tone of voice, even using the same words. It's not that at all. The mirroring that I teach is much more simplistic and interestingly enough has a great impact on how the other person interacts with you. And it's just repeating the last one to three words that they've said word for word, one to three words or it's repeating a selected one to three words. And what it really does is it helps connect people's thoughts. There will almost never be a time when you mirrored the last three words of what someone said when they want to go on and explain and reword and expand.
And that mirror what is has done as it helps give you a better understanding of what the other person is trying to say. It also gives you more time to think. It's a way to buy time in a negotiation for yourself. The other person doesn't see you buying time in any way shape or form. It's a great way when you don't know what to say or where to go to keep them talking in a way that they're very comfortable with. One of my clients actually mirrors his counterpart's positions every single time. Every time they make a statement on a position he simply mirrors it. They'll repeat it and they'll expand it and every time he does that it also gives him a good feel for whether or not they're really stable in that position or whether there's quite a bit of softness in a position completely based on how they reword and responded to his mirror. So a mirror is a great way to keep somebody else talking very comfortably.
The F word in negotiations is fair. Fair is the F bomb. And when you begin to look for it it's stunning in how many negotiations somebody drops the F bomb in the negotiation. And when somebody says we just want what's fair, that's actually a really bad sign. One of two things is going on: now the cutthroat negotiators know how much I can punch your buttons if I say I've given you a fair offer and that will immediately put you on the defensive and make you worry about whether or not you're being fair, and most people have an extinctive feeling about fair price, fair market. Fair is like this incredibly overused term in negotiations, I just want what's fair, what's the fair market price.
So if I say I've given you a fair offer and I'm accusing you of being unfair I immediately knocked you back on your heels. It's a way for me to gain an advantage on you, if I'm that kind of a negotiator. The flipside of that is maybe I've been assertive enough in the negotiations and I haven't been using enough tactical empathy that the other person feels like I'm taking, taking, taking from them and they'll respond with, "I just want what's fair." That may be someone genuinely telling me, very indirectly, that they feel I've been far too aggressive. And if they feel I've been aggressive and if they feel treated unfairly, one of two things is going to happen: they're either going to walk away from a great deal or they're going to make implementation painful. And when implementation of a negotiation is painful, when they drag their feet, when they don't make deadlines, when they don't deliver the product quality they're supposed to deliver, when they're not as thorough and paying as much attention to detail because they didn't feel it was a fair deal, they'll destroy your profit. So you have to really keep an eye out for the F bomb in negotiations. And when somebody else feels they've been treated unfairly they're probably going to hurt you over it.
Mirroring is a phenomenon frequently observed between two people in conversation. When a person is mirroring who they talk to, mimicking their body language and enthusiasm, it is a signal that the two people are at ease with each other and have taken a similar point of view.
Mirroring starts in infancy as babies learn about the world by imitating the behavior of those around them. This imitative behavior continues through life, from adolescence into adulthood, and if used consciously, mirroring may subconsciously influence others: many artists who claim to be hypnotists or psychics, such as Long Island Medium Theresa Caputo, use mirroring.
Chris Voss, a former FBI Negotiator and current CEO of the Black Swan Group, is an expert on mirroring. If your goal is to better position yourself in a negotiation, mirroring is a technique you can use to choose your language carefully. By repeating the other person’s last few words, just one to three of them, you can indicate that you are listening. Not only that, but it pushes the conversation forward as the person feels free to delve in deeper.
Repeating someone’s last words also gives you time to think about your own place in negotiation. After your short reply repeating them, most people will expand on what they mean. Voss says that the small delay caused by repeating those one to three words can in the long run save much time, and help things to go your way.
Chris Voss's book is Never Split the Difference: Negotiating as if Your Life Depended On It.
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Political division is nothing new. Throughout American history there have been numerous flare ups in which the political arena was more than just tense but incideniary. In a letter addressed to William Hamilton in 1800, Thomas Jefferson once lamented about how an emotional fervor had swept over the populace in regards to a certain political issue at the time. It disturbed him greatly to see how these political issues seemed to seep into every area of life and even affect people's interpersonal relationships. At one point in the letter he states:
"I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as cause for withdrawing from a friend."
Today, we Americans find ourselves in a similar situation, with our political environment even more splintered due to a number of factors. The advent of mass digital media, siloed identity-driven political groups, and a societal lack of understanding of basic discursive fundamentals all contribute to the problem.
Civil discourse has fallen to an all time low.
The question that the American populace needs to ask itself now is: how do we fix it?
Discursive fundamentals need to be taught to preserve free expression
In a 2017 Free Speech and Tolerance Survey by Cato, it was found that 71% of Americans believe that political correctness had silenced important discussions necessary to our society. Many have pointed to draconian university policies regarding political correctness as a contributing factor to this phenomenon.
It's a great irony that, colleges, once true bastions of free-speech, counterculture and progressiveness, have now devolved into reactionary tribal politics.
Many years ago, one could count on the fact that universities would be the first places where you could espouse and debate any controversial idea without consequence. The decline of staple subjects that deal with the wisdom of the ancients, historical reference points, and civic discourse could be to blame for this exaggerated partisanship boiling on campuses.
Young people seeking an education are given a disservice when fed biased ideology, even if such ideology is presented with the best of intentions. Politics are but one small sliver for society and the human condition at large. Universities would do well to instead teach the principles of healthy discourse and engagement across the ideological spectrum.
The fundamentals of logic, debate and the rich artistic heritage of western civilization need to be the central focus of an education. They help to create a well-rounded citizen that can deal with controversial political issues.
It has been found that in the abstract, college students generally support and endorse the first amendment, but there's a catch when it comes to actually practicing it. This was explored in a Gallup survey titled: Free Expression on Campus: What college students think about First amendment issues.
In their findings the authors state:
"The vast majority say free speech is important to democracy and favor an open learning environment that promotes the airing of a wide variety of ideas. However, the actions of some students in recent years — from milder actions such as claiming to be threatened by messages written in chalk promoting Trump's candidacy to the most extreme acts of engaging in violence to stop attempted speeches — raise issues of just how committed college students are to
upholding First Amendment ideals.
Most college students do not condone more aggressive actions to squelch speech, like violence and shouting down speakers, although there are some who do. However, students do support many policies or actions that place limits on speech, including free speech zones, speech codes and campus prohibitions on hate speech, suggesting that their commitment to free speech has limits. As one example, barely a majority think handing out literature on controversial issues is "always acceptable."
With this in mind, the problems seen on college campuses are also being seen on a whole through other pockets of society and regular everyday civic discourse. Look no further than the dreaded and cliche prospect of political discussion at Thanksgiving dinner.
Talking politics at Thanksgiving dinner
As a result of this increased tribalization of views, it's becoming increasingly more difficult to engage in polite conversation with people possessing opposing viewpoints. The authors of a recent Hidden Tribes study broke down the political "tribes" in which many find themselves in:
- Progressive Activists: younger, highly engaged, secular, cosmopolitan, angry.
- Traditional Liberals: older, retired, open to compromise, rational, cautious.
- Passive Liberals: unhappy, insecure, distrustful, disillusioned.
- Politically Disengaged: young, low income, distrustful, detached, patriotic, conspiratorial
- Moderates: engaged, civic-minded, middle-of-the-road, pessimistic, Protestant.
- Traditional Conservatives: religious, middle class, patriotic, moralistic.
- Devoted Conservatives: white, retired, highly engaged, uncompromising,
Understanding these different viewpoints and the hidden tribes we may belong to will be essential in having conversations with those we disagree with. This might just come to a head when it's Thanksgiving and you have a mix of many different personalities, ages, and viewpoints.
It's interesting to note the authors found that:
"Tribe membership shows strong reliability in predicting views across different political topics."
You'll find that depending on what group you identify with, that nearly 100 percent of the time you'll believe in the same way the rest of your group constituents do.
Here are some statistics on differing viewpoints according to political party:
- 51% of staunch liberals say it's "morally acceptable" to punch Nazis.
- 53% of Republicans favor stripping U.S. citizenship from people who burn the American flag.
- 51% of Democrats support a law that requires Americans use transgender people's preferred gender pronouns.
- 65% of Republicans say NFL players should be fired if they refuse to stand for the anthem.
- 58% of Democrats say employers should punish employees for offensive Facebook posts.
- 47% of Republicans favor bans on building new mosques.
Understanding the fact that tribal membership indicates what you believe, can help you return to the fundamentals for proper political engagement
Here are some guidelines for civic discourse that might come in handy:
- Avoid logical fallacies. Essentially at the core, a logical fallacy is anything that detracts from the debate and seeks to attack the person rather than the idea and stray from the topic at hand.
- Practice inclusion and listen to who you're speaking to.
- Have the idea that there is nothing out of bounds for inquiry or conversation once you get down to an even stronger or new perspective of whatever you were discussing.
- Keep in mind the maxim of : Do not listen with the intent to reply. But with the intent to understand.
- We're not trying to proselytize nor shout others down with our rhetoric, but come to understand one another again.
- If we're tied too closely to some in-group we no longer become an individual but a clone of someone else's ideology.
Civic discourse in the divisive age
Debate and civic discourse is inherently messy. Add into the mix an ignorance of history, rabid politicization and debased political discourse, you can see that it will be very difficult in mending this discursive staple of a functional civilization.
There is still hope that this great divide can be mended, because it has to be. The Hidden Tribes authors at one point state:
"In the era of social media and partisan news outlets, America's differences have become
dangerously tribal, fueled by a culture of outrage and taking offense. For the combatants,
the other side can no longer be tolerated, and no price is too high to defeat them.
These tensions are poisoning personal relationships, consuming our politics and
putting our democracy in peril.
Once a country has become tribalized, debates about contested issues from
immigration and trade to economic management, climate change and national security,
become shaped by larger tribal identities. Policy debate gives way to tribal conflicts.
Polarization and tribalism are self-reinforcing and will likely continue to accelerate.
The work of rebuilding our fragmented society needs to start now. It extends from
re-connecting people across the lines of division in local communities all the way to
building a renewed sense of national identity: a bigger story of us."
We need to start teaching people how to approach subjects from less of an emotional or baseless educational bias or identity, especially in the event that the subject matter could be construed to be controversial or uncomfortable.
This will be the beginning of a new era of understanding, inclusion and the defeat of regressive philosophies that threaten the core of our nation and civilization.
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