1: It’s not whom we think, Chris Voss writes his terrific book Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It.
His answer? Oprah Winfrey.
“Her daily television show was a case study of a master practitioner at work,” he writes.
“On a stage face-to-face with someone she has never met, in front of a crowded studio of hundreds, with millions more watching from home, and a task to persuade that person in front of her, sometimes against his or her own best interests, to talk and talk and keep talking, ultimately sharing with the world deep, dark secrets that they had held hostage in their own minds for a lifetime.”
2: Chris believes the key to being a successful negotiator is the ability to be empathetic. We quiet the voices in our heads. We focus all our attention on the other person. We listen. We slow it down and build connection, so the other person feels they are being heard.
When we watch Oprah closely, we see these skills in action: “A conscious smile to ease the tension, use of subtle verbal and nonverbal language to signal empathy (and thus security), a certain downward inflection in the voice, embrace of specific kinds of questions, and avoidance of others–a whole array of previously hidden skills that will prove invaluable to us, once we’ve learned to use them.”
3: “Negotiation is not an act of battle; it’s a process of discovery. The goal is to uncover as much information as possible,” he suggests. “People who view negotiation as a battle of arguments become overwhelmed by the voices in their head.”
Reflection: Think back on a recent negotiation or emotionally tense conversation. What was my mindset? Was I focused on “winning” or on understanding the other person?
Action: Prepare for an upcoming high-stakes conversation by focusing all my attention on being empathetic.