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Get better than yes using these 5 negotiation tactics
Mirror to establish trust
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Better than Yes? Often we say Yes but without any real commitment. It often hides our disagreement and annoyance; it gets someone off our back. In a negotiation, we need to understand the other party’s emotional drivers, establish trust and exit with a committed Yes. This post explores tactics to do just that, drawing upon insights from the book Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss and Tahl Raz.
Start with No
When we say No, it feels safe. It is without commitment. We can relax and it gives us time and space to think. We need to feel in control. No is often not a straight rejection, but rather a holding position: I am uncomfortable, I need more information, or I need input from others. Somewhat counter-intuitively, No can be the start of a negotiation, not the end.
Mirror to establish trust
Mirroring is imitation and often unconscious. People mimic each others actions as a way of comforting each other, establishing rapport and trust. It is enacted through body movements, speech patterns and tempo. Mirroring works in a profound psychological way: we are attracted to similar things and fear difference. Practiced consciously as part of a negotiation strategy, it conveys similarity and says “You and I are alike. You can trust me.” The simplest way to mirror in verbal negotiations is to repeat back the last three words (or so) of what your counterpart says. By doing so the other party is triggered into expanding their point and deepening the connection. Having listened to the response, this tactic can be used again. Mirroring can and often should be used with the other tools outlined in this post.
Labelling is a form of tactical empathy. It is a way of recognising and playing back predictable emotions in a situation. It takes the form of saying “It seems like…” or “It sounds like…”. An example might be, “It sounds like you are concerned about being able to deliver on time.” Labelling is a way of validating someone’s emotion by acknowledging how they feel. It gets you closer to them. Exposing negative thoughts this way brings them out into the open and diminishes their emotional impact. Labelling is a simple way to reinforce positive aspects of the negotiation or diffuse negative ones. Once a label has been aired, it is important to wait for and listen to the response. Your counterpart will either confirm the accuracy of the label or feel compelled to correct it. Either way, you will have gained further insight.
Creating an atmosphere of positive regard significantly increases the prospect of achieving a good outcome. In negotiations, providing feedback in the form of a summary, including labels, and eliciting a “That’s right” (or equivalent) response creates breakthroughs. The more someone feels understood, the more likely constructive behaviour will result.
Getting to a Yes is not useful without a committed How. Hence, once your counterpart has indicated their agreement to a deal then a series of How questions should be posed and addressed. Answering your How will the deal be executed? questions keeps the responder engaged and committed to the agreed outcome.
Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss
This post examined 5 tactics to radically improve the prospects of a positive negotiation outcome. Next Sunday’s post will suggest ways to write titles for articles that people will want to read.
Until next Sunday, try out the mirroring technique in your next conversation and see what happens.