• Your negotiating skills will affect everything from your promotion prospects to who’s taking the dog for a walk tonight. To that end, most of us copy what we see in the movies: poker faces, tough talking and never taking no for an answer. But sometimes driving a hard bargain isn’t the best way to get what you want. Management Today spoke to former FBI lead international hostage negotiator and author Chris Voss to learn the subtler arts of striking a deal.

    Your negotiating skills will affect everything from your promotion prospects to who’s taking the dog for a walk tonight. To that end, most of us copy what we see in the movies: poker faces, tough talking and never taking no for an answer. But sometimes driving a hard bargain isn’t the best way to get what you want. Management Today spoke to former FBI lead international hostage negotiator and author Chris Voss to learn the subtler arts of striking a deal.

  • 1. THIS ISN’T CHESS:  ‘People think negotiation’s chess, but in fact it’s more like dating,’ says Voss. The quality of the relationship is essential, especially if it’s ongoing – there’s no point alienating your boss, for instance, when you’re asking for a raise or promotion. Strategy, on the other hand, is overrated, because you often have insufficient information.

    1. THIS ISN’T CHESS: ‘People think negotiation’s chess, but in fact it’s more like dating,’ says Voss. The quality of the relationship is essential, especially if it’s ongoing – there’s no point alienating your boss, for instance, when you’re asking for a raise or promotion. Strategy, on the other hand, is overrated, because you often have insufficient information.

  • 2. STOP TRYING TO CONVINCE THEM:  ‘You can never get someone to see something the way you’d like them to,’ says Voss.  So stop trying. Instead, understand what’s motivating them and turn it back on them. ‘If I can articulate what’s driving you that you’re blind to and it sounds like it’s against my interests, then I’ve just increased the chances you’ll make a deal that favours me to a ridiculous degree.’

    2. STOP TRYING TO CONVINCE THEM: ‘You can never get someone to see something the way you’d like them to,’ says Voss. So stop trying. Instead, understand what’s motivating them and turn it back on them. ‘If I can articulate what’s driving you that you’re blind to and it sounds like it’s against my interests, then I’ve just increased the chances you’ll make a deal that favours me to a ridiculous degree.’

  • 3. DON’T USE SMALL TALK:  It’s common to use small talk as a way to ease into difficult conversations, but that just raises suspicions. Trying lowering their expectations instead. ‘ If I want a raise, I’ll say

    3. DON’T USE SMALL TALK: It’s common to use small talk as a way to ease into difficult conversations, but that just raises suspicions. Trying lowering their expectations instead. ‘ If I want a raise, I’ll say "boss I’ve got something to talk to you about that you don’t want to hear." The boss will assume I’m going to quit and the over-reaction will benefit me.’

  • 4. HELP YOUR OPPONENT:  This is not a zero-sum game. The whole point in bargaining is that you both get something you want. One-sided deals will ultimately hurt you. ‘Those who say “I never lost money on a deal” will lose money all the time by not making deals in the first place,’ says Voss.

    4. HELP YOUR OPPONENT: This is not a zero-sum game. The whole point in bargaining is that you both get something you want. One-sided deals will ultimately hurt you. ‘Those who say “I never lost money on a deal” will lose money all the time by not making deals in the first place,’ says Voss.

  • 5. GET EMOTIONAL:  Many a negotiation was ruined by an inopportune flush of anger. But if you think you can eliminate emotions from the negotiating table altogether, think again. ‘Rationality is a complete fiction,’ says Voss. ‘You make decisions based on what you care about. What is negotiation but the management of passions?’

    5. GET EMOTIONAL: Many a negotiation was ruined by an inopportune flush of anger. But if you think you can eliminate emotions from the negotiating table altogether, think again. ‘Rationality is a complete fiction,’ says Voss. ‘You make decisions based on what you care about. What is negotiation but the management of passions?’

  • 6. GET THEM TO SAY NO:  You want them to say yes, right? Wrong. ‘Yes is commitment, it makes people feel nervous. If I say to you

    6. GET THEM TO SAY NO: You want them to say yes, right? Wrong. ‘Yes is commitment, it makes people feel nervous. If I say to you "would you like to make more money", your gut instinct is that this is a trap,’ explains Voss. Instead, focus on getting the word no. It makes us feel protected and therefore open to listening. There’s nothing wrong with that, is there?

  • 7. GET YOUR RADIO VOICE ON:  Your tone has a powerful impact on the other side’s emotions, especially as the conversation goes on. ‘If you take a really calm, downward inflected tone of voice – I call it the late night FM DJ voice – it can be irresistible.’

    7. GET YOUR RADIO VOICE ON: Your tone has a powerful impact on the other side’s emotions, especially as the conversation goes on. ‘If you take a really calm, downward inflected tone of voice – I call it the late night FM DJ voice – it can be irresistible.’

  • 8. FLASH THE SMILE:  A smile can also be a powerful weapon at the negotiating table. ‘It will lead you into an emotional stage where when I smile you want to agree. If what I’m proposing isn’t agreeable to you, you’ll start brainstorming and coming up with stuff you hope I’ll agree to,’ says Voss.

    8. FLASH THE SMILE: A smile can also be a powerful weapon at the negotiating table. ‘It will lead you into an emotional stage where when I smile you want to agree. If what I’m proposing isn’t agreeable to you, you’ll start brainstorming and coming up with stuff you hope I’ll agree to,’ says Voss.

  • 9. PLAY ON THEIR SENSE OF LOSS:  ‘You’re driven in every decision by a fear of loss. I can aim at that by asking what’s going to happen if we don’t make a deal, or saying I just wanted to offer this to you before I take it elsewhere. You feel that if you don’t take it, you’re going to miss out,’ says Voss.

    9. PLAY ON THEIR SENSE OF LOSS: ‘You’re driven in every decision by a fear of loss. I can aim at that by asking what’s going to happen if we don’t make a deal, or saying I just wanted to offer this to you before I take it elsewhere. You feel that if you don’t take it, you’re going to miss out,’ says Voss.

  • 10. THE DEVIL’S IN THE DETAIL:  Deals are most likely to turn bad in the implementation stage. ‘Yes is nothing without how. That’s where a lot of people make mistakes, because they’re too focused on getting agreement that they don’t listen.’ It’s better to take your time.

    10. THE DEVIL’S IN THE DETAIL: Deals are most likely to turn bad in the implementation stage. ‘Yes is nothing without how. That’s where a lot of people make mistakes, because they’re too focused on getting agreement that they don’t listen.’ It’s better to take your time.

  • 11. LET THEM ‘WIN’:  Closing negotiations can be tricky when everyone wants the last word. So swallow your pride. ‘I want them to feel like they’ve won. I want to get them to get me to say yes,’ says Voss. That way, they’re also far less likely to back out later. ‘It really is the art of letting the other side have your way.’ Chris Voss is author of Never Split the Difference. Images: Shutterstock

    11. LET THEM ‘WIN’: Closing negotiations can be tricky when everyone wants the last word. So swallow your pride. ‘I want them to feel like they’ve won. I want to get them to get me to say yes,’ says Voss. That way, they’re also far less likely to back out later. ‘It really is the art of letting the other side have your way.’ Chris Voss is author of Never Split the Difference. Images: Shutterstock

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11 business tips from an FBI hostage negotiator

Find out how to cut deals like your life depended on it.

by Adam Gale
Last Updated: 15 Feb 2018

Images: Shutterstock

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