By: Chris Voss
The Strong Opening Line
Chris Voss, a former FBI negotiator with over two decades of experience, faced a formidable challenge at Harvard University, negotiating against Robert Mnookin, the director of the Harvard Negotiation Project. The scenario presented was a life-and-death situation, testing Voss’s techniques against some of the world’s leading negotiation experts. Voss’s experience in hostage negotiations and the techniques outlined in his book, “Never Split the Difference,” proved effective not only in life-threatening situations but also in boardrooms and sales calls.
The Problem with Old School Negotiation
The article highlights the limitations of traditional negotiation approaches, particularly those outlined in the 1979 book “Getting To Yes.” It critiques the assumption that a rational, joint problem-solving mindset can overcome the emotional aspects of negotiation. Drawing from the work of Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman, it emphasizes the role of emotions and cognitive biases in decision-making, challenging the separation of emotions from rational thinking in negotiation.
Mirroring: Building Rapport through Imitation
Mirroring, a technique likened to imitation, is a powerful tool for building rapport. By mimicking speech patterns, body language, vocabulary, and tone of voice, negotiators can establish a connection with their counterparts. The article details the three voice tones available—late-night FM DJ voice, positive/playful voice, and direct/assertive voice. Starting with a positive/playful tone relaxes counterparts, fostering collaboration. Mirroring involves repeating the last few critical words spoken by the counterpart, encouraging them to elaborate and facilitating a non-confrontational approach.
Labelling: Utilizing Tactical Empathy
Labelling involves identifying and articulating the emotions expressed by counterparts. This tactical empathy, as described by Voss, helps negotiators understand the other party’s perspective and motivations. By validating the counterpart’s emotions through careful labelling, negotiators create a platform for constructive dialogue. The article stresses the importance of using neutral language such as “it seems like,” “it sounds like,” or “it looks like” when labelling emotions, avoiding the use of the word “I.”
Get to No: Embracing Rejection for Progress
Contrary to the common urge to reach a “yes” quickly, the article suggests that obtaining a “no” is a valuable step in negotiation. “No” can mean various things, such as a need for more information or discomfort with the current proposal. Embracing rejection provides clarity on the counterpart’s desires and enhances their sense of control, fostering receptivity to the negotiation process.
“That’s Right”: Achieving Understanding
The turning point in negotiation occurs when the counterpart expresses, “that’s right.” This signifies that they feel understood and affirmed, creating a positive atmosphere for further discussion. The article emphasizes the importance of using a summary to trigger this response, combining a rearticulation of the counterpart’s perspective with the underlying emotions.
Bending Reality: Strategies for Negotiation Success
Negotiation success often requires bending reality in one’s favor. Anchoring emotions, letting the counterpart go first, establishing a range during the first offer, pivoting to non-monetary terms, using odd numbers, and employing the illusion of control through calibrated questions are outlined as effective strategies. The article stresses the psychological impact of these techniques on influencing the counterpart’s perception of the negotiation.
Using the Ackerman Model: Strategic Bargaining
The Ackerman Model provides a structured approach to bargaining, incorporating psychological tactics. It involves setting a target price, initiating the first offer at 65% of the target, calculating three raises of decreasing increments, and concluding with a precise non-round number and a non-monetary item. This model leverages reciprocity, extreme anchors, and loss aversion without necessitating explicit consideration during negotiation.
Conclusion: Mastering Negotiation with Unconventional Techniques
In summary, the article advocates for unconventional negotiation techniques presented by Chris Voss in “Never Split the Difference.” Drawing on Voss’s experiences in high-stakes hostage negotiations, the strategies outlined—such as mirroring, labelling, embracing rejection, achieving understanding, and bending reality—offer a holistic and effective approach to mastering negotiation in various contexts. The Ackerman Model provides a structured method for strategic bargaining, emphasizing the importance of meticulous preparation and psychological insight in negotiations.**