The number one thing to keep in mind in any negotiation is there’s power in patience, former FBI negotiator Chris Voss tells CNBC Make It: “You’ve got to let the other side talk first, and you’ve got to make them feel in control.”
Voss is the founder and CEO of strategy consultancy Black Swan Group, and prior to working in the private sector, he was the lead international kidnapping negotiator for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the lead crisis negotiator for the New York City Division of the FBI and a member of the New York City Joint Terrorist Task Force for 14 years.
He says you are more likely to get what you want if the party you are negotiating with feels like the solution was their idea. “Negotiation is often described as the art of letting the other side have your way,” says Voss. “You have to give the other side a chance to put stuff on the table voluntarily.”
So the more the party you are negotiating with says, the better for you. “It’s not just listening, but it’s understanding how to get them to talk more, how to get them to comfortably say more,” Voss tells CNBC Make It.
One way to do this is to use the phrase, “It seems like you’ve thought about this a lot,” recommends Voss. Chances are very likely that the party you are negotiating with has thought about the question carefully. Recognizing that effort directly helps open people up.
“We see over and over again … it actually makes a connection in somebody’s head and they will go like, ‘Yeah, and I thought about this, and I thought about this, and I thought about that,'” says Voss.
One of Voss’ clients calls this “unlocking the floodgates of truth-telling,” he tells CNBC Make It. “It creates a connection in the brain where people just start talking and that’s how you get them to put things on the table without them thinking about it.”
Another simple technique to get the party you are negotiating with to talk is called “mirroring.” When the person you are negotiating with finishes speaking, you repeat the last one to three words that the person just said or said recently.
“It is ridiculously simple,” says Voss. It’s also “ridiculously effective,” he says, because it helps people connect the thoughts in their head, and it signals them that you need more information.
You can also use mirroring to buy yourself extra time to think if you are surprised or unprepared.
“I was negotiating in a bank robbery one time and the bank robber out of the blue said, ‘You chased my driver away.’ And I didn’t know anything about a driver. I knew nothing, and it really caught me off guard,” says Voss. “I said, ‘We chased your driver away?’ He said, ‘Yeah, when he saw the police he cut and run.’ And he gave us a whole bunch of information about a third conspirator the we didn’t even know was there,” says Voss. “So, I did that when I was caught off guard. I needed a few more moments.”
And always remember, negotiating is a process.
“Very few negotiations are begun and concluded in the same sitting. It’s really rare,” he says. In fact, “If you sit down and actually complete your negotiation in one sitting, you left stuff on the table,” says Voss.
“Take your time and gather information. I had a client once tell me the other person is going to tell you way more about themselves than you could ever research and find out on your own, which speaks to taking your time a little bit, going through more than one sitting and getting a much better deal.
“So don’t try to conclude your negotiations in one interaction, because you are going to leave money on the table if you do.”