FBI Hostage Negotiator Chris Voss on the Skills Every Leader Needs

Knowing how to negotiate well is an essential skill for leaders, says FBI veteran Chris Voss. Voss, who used to be the lead hostage negotiator for the FBI, started off the second day of the Global Leadership Summit 2019 (GLS) by outlining a series of negotiation strategies that all of us, not just leaders, can use on a daily basis.

“Any time the words ‘I want’ or ‘I need’ are coming out of your mouth, you’re in a negotiation,” said Voss, who now helps Fortune 500 companies navigate complex negotiations. And, he told interviewer Paula Faris, “The most dangerous negotiation is the one you don’t know you’re in.”

Key Negotiation Skills

All of us are in five to seven negotiations per day, whether we realize it or not. These negotiations could look like trying to get our kids to go to bed, asking for a raise at work, or buying a car. They could even include debates we’re having with ourselves. And as Daniel Coyle makes clear in his book, The Talent Code, negotiating—like any talent—is something anyone can develop. Voss described a variety of strategies to keep in mind in any negotiation scenario.

  1. First, hear the other side out. “Turn the negotiation into a collaboration,” said Voss, and connect with the other person.
  2. Use tactical empathy. Empathy is being able to completely understand where someone is coming from, even if you don’t like that person. Voss emphasized, “Empathy is not compassion. It is a very compassionate thing to do.” When he would negotiate on behalf of the FBI, he would use tactical empathy by saying, “You must be nervous about negotiating with a negotiator.” He would call out the elephant in the room and empathize with the person he was talking to.
  3. Mirroring is a tactic where you simply repeat what the other person said, which helps people feel that they were heard. If you include upward inflection when you repeat their words (making it sound like a question), this encourages them to elaborate. While this strategy sounds extremely simple, Voss said not to be fooled by its simplicity. The simplicity is what gives these strategies elegance.
  4. At some point, allow people to say “no” to what you’re asking because doing so allows them to feel safe and honest. Said Voss, “You’ll talk to me a lot more after you’ve said ‘no’ than you will if I’ve cornered you into a ‘yes.’”
  5. Avoid the phrase, “You’re right” and instead say, “That’s right.” The greatest practitioners of the phrase, “You’re right,” are husbands, Voss said in a joking manner. However, what this statement really means is that you want the other person to stop talking.

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Source: Church Leaders