You may negotiate the resolution of lawsuits or other conflicts between people or businesses and there may be family issues or money at stake. There are some of us who negotiate when lives are on the line, such as negotiators talking to people holding hostages. These negotiators really need to know their stuff.

Chris Voss is a former FBI hostage negotiator who now teaches negotiation techniques. He has a video on YouTube giving some pointers on how you can be a better negotiator

Voss says how you use your voice is very important and is driven by context more than anything else. Your tone of voice will immediately impact the other party’s mood. Voss says there is scientific data showing that our brains will work up to 31% more effectively when we are in a good mood.

If you smile at the other party and they see it and hear your smile in your voice Voss says that will put the other person in a better mood without any conscious decision to do so. If that happens the person’s brain will work more effectively and increase the chances that you’ll be able to collaborate.

Mirroring is a technique to help connect with the other party by repeating what they say and/or do. Voss says what he teaches is very simple, repeating the last one to three words the person said or the one to three most important words. Voss says it,

  • “(H)elps connect people’s thoughts,”
  • Gives you a better understanding of what the other person is trying to say,
  • Gives you some time to think about what you want to say next, and
  • When the other party hears their words back from you they may re-evaluate their position so you’ll learn how committed they are to that position. They may respond with something slightly or completely different or agree that’s what they want.

Voss warns that the “f-bomb” in negotiations is “fair.” “When somebody says we just want what’s fair that’s actually a really bad sign,” Voss says. He says the negotiator is trying to “punch your buttons” and by saying his offer is fair he’s trying to put you on the defensive. Voss says you may begin to wonder if you are being unfair. “It’s a way for me to gain an advantage on you if I’m that kind of a negotiator.”

If the other party is using the “f-bomb” they may also be communicating to you that you’ve been too aggressive, unfair and not empathetic enough. Voss says, “One of two things is going to happen. Either (they’re) going to walk away from a great deal or (they’re) to make implementation painful.” That pain can be created be delay and missed deadlines.  “When somebody else feels they’ve been treated unfairly they’re probably going to hurt you over it,” Voss warns.