1: Marti Evelsizer was the FBI’s Crisis Negotiation Coordinator in Pittsburgh. 

She was “a dynamo and a negotiating genius, which earned her huge respect both within the Bureau and with the local police,” writes Chris Voss in his book Never Split the Difference.

The city’s police department’s hostage negotiation team asked her to sit on their selection board for new candidates. It was quite an honor.

The only problem? 

“Picking her, and doing so over her boss, was an unprecedented move,” Chris notes. “Her success diminished [her boss], and that made her a threat.”

The boss was jealous. So much so that he decided to remove her from her position. “For ignoring her regular duties, he said. But really, it was for being a threat,” Chris writes. 

2: Marti’s options were few. Her boss “had every right to do as he pleased,” Chris notes. 

She could accuse him of being jealous and attempt to work it out. Or, she could point out the positives for the Bureau. “Would you like our office to be honored for its expertise?”

This approach plays to one of our society’s biggest social dictums: “Be nice.”

But Marti knew that approach wouldn’t work in this situation. 

So, she went negative: “Do you want the FBI embarrassed?” she asked.

She intentionally mislabelled her boss’s desire. 

Which forced him to say, “No.” 

“What do you want me to do?” she said next.

The boss leaned back in his chair, “one of those 1950s faux-leather numbers that squeak meaningfully when the sitter shifts,” writes Chris. “He stared at her over his glasses and then nodded ever so slightly. He was in control.” 

“Look, you can keep the position,” he said. “Just go back out there and don’t let it interfere with your other duties.” 

Marti walked out of his office with her job intact. And with a seat on the selection board.

By going negative, she “nudged her supervisor into a zone where he was making the decisions,” Chris writes. “And then she furthered his feelings of safety and power with a question inviting him to define her next move.”

3: We can use a similar strategy in sales. Imagine we are reaching out to someone who does not respond.

“There’s nothing more irritating than being ignored,” Chris writes. “Being turned down is bad, but getting no response at all is the pits. It makes you feel invisible, as if you don’t exist.”

So what do we do? 

We go negative. 

As in a one-line email: “Have you given up on this project?”

This approach “plays on our counterpart’s natural human aversion to loss,” Chris suggests. Doing so encourages them to “define their position and explain it,” Chris writes. “Just as important, it makes the implicit threat that we will walk away on our own terms.”

Which provokes the other party to reply immediately and disagree: “No, our priorities haven’t changed. We’ve just gotten bogged down.”

Now we are negotiating!

More tomorrow.


Action: Go negative in an upcoming negotiation. Intentionally say something we know is wrong.

Reflection: How does the other party react? How do I feel?

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