Fire, Wheel, Axe & Silicon…these are perhaps the most important tools that helped in evolution of mankind. But the one tool that, according to me, doesn’t get its due is Negotiation. Negotiation has been the essence of daily life since ages. It is the bridge that has enabled a smooth transition for many. While for many, it has meant water under the “bridge” to move things forward. Chris Voss, a former FBI negotiation expert, lays out his entire negotiation experience (from hostages to bank robberies to even landing top clients for his consultancy) in this book. This will help you approach all your problems, big and small, in a way that will surely tilt the odds in your favour! Below is my interpretation of the book –

Never Split

Before we begin, let us first try and answer an important question. So what is negotiation? You don’t need to like it. You just need to understand that’s how the world works. Negotiating does not mean browbeating or grinding someone down. It simply means playing the emotional game that human society is setup for. So claim your prerogative to ask for what you think is right!

  • FBI’s most potent negotiating tool – the open ended question. The queries that the other side can respond to but that have no fixed answers. It buys you time. It gives them the illusion of control without the idea how constrained they are by it. Eg – How am I supposed to do that? How do I give you money? How do I know he/she is alive? Logistical questions!
  • Without a deep understanding of human psychology, without the acceptance that we are all crazy, irrational, impulsive, emotionally driven animals, all the raw intelligence and mathematical logic in the world is little help in the fraught, shifting interplay of 2 people. Perhaps, we are the only animal that haggles
  • All the studies into structuring the negotiation process had a core assumption that the emotional brain – that animalistic, unreliable, and irrational beast – could be overcome through a more rational, joint problem solving mind-set. Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky won a Nobel for showing man is a very irrational beast. Feeling, they say, is a form of thinking (Thinking fast and slow)
  • The centrepiece to address this feeling/emotional issue is called Tactical Empathy. Listening is not a passive activity. It is the most active thing you can do to influence. It takes a whole team to listen in the FBI. It’s really not that easy to listen well. We are easily distracted. We engage in selective listening, hearing only what we want to hear, our minds acting on a cognitive bias to consistency rather than truth
  • Tactical empathy is emotional Intelligence on steroids. It is understanding the feelings and mindset of another in the moment and also hearing what is behind those feelings so you increase your influence in all the moments that follow
  • Assumptions Blind, Hypothesis Guide! Good negotiators know they have to be ready for possible surprises; great negotiators aim to use their skills to reveal the surprises that are certain exist. You have to have multiple hypothesis in your mind and be alert to use incoming information to winnow true hypothesis from the false ones
  • Going too fast is one of the mistakes that all negotiators are prone to making. If we’re too much in a hurry, people can feel as if they’re not being heard and we risk undermining the rapport and trust we’ve built. Passage of time is one of the most important tools for a negotiator. Slow it down!
  • It’s how we speak and the demeanour that matters. It’s like involuntary neurological telepathy – we signal the world whether we are ready to play or fight, laugh or cry. Understanding reflex and putting it into practice is critical to the success of just about every negotiation skill there is to learn. You can flip the emotional switch in an instant with the right delivery. A smile on your face, and in your voice, will increase your own mental agility
  • Mirroring is essentially imitation. It’s another neurobehavior humans display in which we copy each other to comfort each other. It can be done with speech patterns, body language, vocabulary, tempo and tone of voice. This is based on the biological principle that we fear what’s different and are drawn to what’s similar
  • How to confront and get your way without confrontation? (Personal learning)
    1. Use the late night FM DJ voice
    2. Start with I’m sorry..
    3. Mirror
    4. At least 4 seconds to let mirror work its magic
    5. Repeat
  • Labelling – a way of validation someone’s emotion by acknowledging it. Spot the feelings, turn them into words, and then calmly and respectfully repeat it back to them. Labelling mostly starts with .. it looks like, it sounds like, it seems like… not “I’m hearing that…” de-emphasise the “I”. “I” gets people’s guards up. Labelling negative emotions diffuses them and reinforces positives
  • Labelling and “taking the sting out” by mentioning your own weaknesses requires a precursor – listing every terrible thing your counterpart could say about you (accusation audit)
  • At the end of the day, “Yes” is often a meaningless answer that hides deeper objections (maybe is even worse). Pushing hard for “yes” doesn’t get a negotiator any closer to a win; it just angers the other side. Yes and maybe are often worthless. “No” always alters the conversation. “No” starts the negotiation. It’s because once you’ve said “no”, you’ve protected your turf and feel more open and comfortable to hear what the other party has to say
  • There are 3 kinds of “Yes”Counterfeit (when you wish to say No and Yes seems to be an easy escape or to obtain more info. You can easily chicken out later), Confirmation (innocent, reflexive response to a black or white question with no promise of action), and Commitment ( the real deal). Know the difference. Force a No. even in emails and you have attention (ask questions like “Have you given up on this project?”)
  • The CNU (Crises Negotiation Unit) or Quantico has developed the Behavioural Change Stairway Model (BCSM) that proposes 5 stages –
    1. Active listening
    2. Empathy
    3. Rapport
    4. Influence
    5. Behavioural change. This takes any negotiator from listening to influencing behaviour.
  • If it is an internal negotiation to get your colleague on board who disagrees with your strategy. Get them to say “that’s right”. It doesn’t come at the beginning. It’s a subtle epiphany. You need the other person to realise this for effective negotiation
  • Tactic of active listeningeffective pauses (let the other person keep talking until emotions were drained from the dialogue), minimal encouragers (yes, ok, uh-huh, I see), mirroring, labelling (it seems like… ), paraphrasing (mirroring in your own language with more effective words), summarise (paraphrasing + mirroring = summary). It’ll eventually get him to “that’s right”!
  • We don’t compromise because it’s right; we compromise because it is easy and it saves face. So don’t settle. Don’t split the difference. Creative solutions are almost always preceded by some degree of risk, annoyance, confusion, and conflict. Accommodation and compromise never produce that. Embrace the hard stuff. That’s where the great deals are
  • Make time your ally. The simple passing of time and its sharper cousin, the deadline, are the score that pressures every deal to a conclusion. Deadlines are self inflicted figments of our imagination, unnecessarily settling us for no good reason. So the next time you’re on a business travel for a deal closure, never tell the counterpart when you’re leaving. On the other hand, not revealing deadlines increases the risk of impasse!
  • If you approach a negotiation thinking that the other guy thinks like you, you’re wrong. That’s not empathy, that’s projection
  • The F-bomb – “we only want what’s fair”. This creates a feeling of defensiveness and discomfort subconsciously. The ideal way to diffuse it would be to say – I’m sorry, let start again from the point where you felt you were being treated unfairly and we’ll fix it Or Just Mirror and label
  • Bend the reality – anchor effect, let the other guy go first… most of the time (but be mindful of the other guy can bend your reality by a vague anchor), establish a range, pivot to non monetary terms (negotiation is more intricate and subtle dynamic that just bargaining), when you do talk numbers, use odd ones (psychology, not just luck as it gives a perception of immovability and we’ll thought out calculation), surprise with a gift (to invoke reciprocity)
  • A successful negotiation involved getting your counterpart to do the work for you and suggest your solution himself. It involved giving him the illusion of control while you, in fact, were the one driving this conversation
  • Avoid “why”. Start with “what” and “how” to calibrate any question. Avoid verbs like “can”, “is”, “are”, “do” or “does”. These are closed ended questions that can be answered by a simple yes or no. We need to calibrate
  • Control your emotions. Keep them in check. Pause. Think. Even when assaulted, do not counter attack. Disarm your opponent by asking a calibrated question. “How’s” also lead to a successful implementation plan
  • Be aware of the people behind the table. Understand to whole negotiation space. Ask questions like “how does it impact the rest of your team”? “How on board are the people not on this call”?
  • The 7-38-55 percent rule – Only 7% of a message is based on the words while 38% comes from the tone of voice and 54% from the speaker’s body language and face
  • The final bargaining of exchanging prices – it is not a comfortable dynamic for most people. Here’s the steps to bargaining –
    1. Understand your counterpart’s style – Accommodating(they spend time on building the relationship; they love win-win), Assertive (their self image is linked to how many things they can get accomplished in a period of time; they need to be heard) or Analyst (their self image is linked to minimising mistakes ; as much time as it takes to get it right; they separate the negotiation from the personal relation)
    2. Time is preparation for analyst, time is relationship for accommodating and time is money for assertive. They also have completely different interpretations of silence (to think, anger, to speak). Don’t treat other people the way you want to be treated. Treat them the way they want to be treated
  • It’s easy to call your counterparts “crazy”. The trick is to try and understand them. The most common mistakes we make while calling someone crazy are
    1. They are ill informed – GIGO
    2. They are constrained – they seem irrational because they cannot reveal certain info
    3. They have other interests – find the black swans (important to get face time for this)
  • It’s not the other guy across the table who scares us: it’s the conflict itself!
  • Black swans are leverage multipliers. Leverage – positive(ability to give someone what they want), negative(ability to hurt someone) and normative (using your counterpart’s norms to bring them around)
  • Prepare your negotiation one sheet because when the pressure is on, you don’t rise to the occasion, you simply fall to your highest level of preparation!

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